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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Drinking
I have a tricky situation I'm trying to sort out. My sister in-law's younger brother recently moved to town and is spending a fair amount of time with us (family dinners, etc.). Apparently he's used to being allowed to drink alcohol because he does not hesitate to grab a beer out of the fridge. Nobody seems to bat an eye. I also know that his sister buys beer for him. I'm having mixed feelings because I think 18 year olds should be allowed to drink-- but the fact is it's illegal. That doesn't even bother me as much as the fact that he drives home afterward (after a beer or 2).
So my concerns have to do with the legal/liability implications of him drinking here should something happen after he leaves, and I also feel like, even though I don't want to have a zero-tolerance position on this, as parents we do have to be conscious that we're setting an example for our kid. As much as I disagree with the 21 yr. drinking age, I'm not interested in being the house where kids think they can come drink and it's totally cool.
Do I put the kabosh on letting him drink here? Or just insist that he doesn't drive afterward?
Any advice? Want to be cool but not that cool
You don't have to explain yourself--it's your house. In fact, I'd avoid explaining yourself other than the above, because it's not open for discussion, so there's no point. If he's being a pain, you can always try to shift discussion by saying ''If you want to talk over dinner about the legal drinking age, use of recreational drugs, etc., we'd all be interested in debating that. But it doesn't have anything to do with our house rules.'' This may be something he is just trying on, hoping that in your house it's all cool even if it wasn't at home, or at the homes of his friends. If you don't like it, put your foot down. your house, your rules
Live in California? California law regards serving alcohol to minors as prohibited.
Underage drinking is illegal.
What would you do if your young in-law were doing something else illegal or unacceptable in your home?
Discuss this with your family.
I know people who started drinking in their teens, it is a very hard habit to change, and often what you are witnessing ( 1-2 beers ) is only a portion of what he may be drinking every day.
These days it seems no one wants to ''be the bad guy''. People don't want to hear ''bad news'' or be ''criticized''. When something really bad happens ''They never saw it coming.''.
How far you go with this is up to you, but I would never allow teenage drinking in my home, or at any social event large or small that I was present as a responsible adult - in my house or anyone else's. If the young man has an unfortuate event driving home, you may find yourself in court criminally and finanicially liable. It looks like you may already be in noncompliance with the existing regulations: http://www.tipsalcohol.com/california-alcohol-laws.html This law also covers parents providing alcohol to minors. '' Those furnishing alcoholic beverages to minors face a misdemeanor charge regardless of the location '' Serious, don't break the law
My 19-year-old daughter is in her second year at a British university. The town is small, and the students' main social activity seems to be clubbing and drinking. My daughter, a teetotaller in high school, has taken to drinking vodka ''alcopops'': sweet, fruity, bottled drinks with about 5% alcohol content. She freely admits she has no head for the stuff, but appears to overindulge at least once a week (as do many, many British students). She talks openly to me about this practice, both by phone and e-mail, and knows my take on it: eat a good dinner beforehand, only have a couple of drinks, with lots of water and juice in between drinks; or don't drink at all. At my suggestion, she visited the National Health Service's website, took their alcohol practices test, and admitted she needed to drink less.
My daughter is a good student, has plenty of friends, and holds down a part-time job. She always goes out with a group of friends, and walks home with them or takes a cab. When she was visiting us this summer, she did not drink at all and only tried to buy alcohol on an airline flight (where she was promptly carded and refused).
My guess is that, being a worrier, she drinks too much to calm any anxieties she might have about money, boyfriends, etc., and, as an American abroad, to feel more comfortable in a group. And because it's fun, of course, but not fun for me to hear about! Her attitude about it, at least around me, is: I'm NOT an alcoholic; everyone does it! And yet she does sometimes seem to regret overindulging and feeling foolish.
My daughter is going to discuss this at her next medical check-up, and I'm also going to check in with Al-Anon to see what they have to say. My guess is that this is a phase and all that, but there is some alcoholism in my family, and I can't help worrying. Any advice?
I just discovered that my daughter (turned 16 in May)has been drinking with her girlfriends. She couldn't give me much info on how much or how often but basically it sounds like slightly more than every two weeks and that they (a group of 6 or so) pass around a bottle of vodka and drink until they feel drunk.
She has had a lot of freedom to spend the night at various girlfriend's houses- we know the parents of about half of them. She tried to impress upon me that she has shown good judgement (...) by not using harder drugs than marijuana (ie ecstasy, LSD or cocaine) and that she doesn't use at school like many of her classmates at Berkeley High. I explained to her my concerns-overdose, sexual assault, risky behavior, alcoholism etc. My husband and I plan to curtail her overnights and pay more attention to whose houses she is allowed to go to but I don't know whether or not I should talk to her girlfriend's parents. I'm afraid of alienating her from her friends and also of making her vow never to tell me anything ever again. Any advice? Conflicted Mom
Honestly I do not know how to tell you to prevent this if your kid really wants to do it. You can minimize it but I'm not sure you can eliminate it unless you never allow sleepovers or outings with other kids. However, I deeply appreciated the phone calls and support from other parents. Believe me, they are going to be having the same experiences you are having now, and being in contact with other adults makes these years so much easier to navigate. It's also important for the kids to know that the parents are a united front. In our case, three of us moms agreed on what our policy was about alcohol and then talked to our kids. We parents agreed to call each other at any time of day or night, if we were worried about where they were or what they were doing. There were phone calls at 2 in the morning, and then driving around Berkeley looking for them. (Fortunately they were always very strict about not driving while drinking, so they were not that hard to find.) So: Call the other parents! Not all of them will be receptive, but I bet most of them will. You just tell them that you wanted them to know, and you can say what your policy is, and that if they ever notice your daughter involved in drinking or other trouble, you would appreciate a call. All the best Been There
i don't mean to alarm you, but what your daughter was willing to tell you is probably the tip of the iceberg. the vagueness and excuses are classic.
even if her report is absolutely accurate, 6 girls sharing a liter of vodka every couple of weeks may translate to each girl having 4-5 drinks of hard liquor, straight. which they did not obtain legally, and probably consumed under unsupervised circumstances.
how do you know this only happens every couple of weeks? that there aren't boys there? that she is ''only'' consuming that much, that she doesn't at school, that she isn't doing other drugs, that it only happens at slumber parties where nobody is driving?
i think you should talk to other parents. the fear of alienating our teens even further is a huge struggle for a lot of us, but it can be an enormous help to have some parent allies when these kinds of challenges come up. it may well be that the other parents, or some of them, have similar concerns. not every parent will agree to keep things confidential amongst parents, but a lot will. knowing you are not the only worried parents helps a lot; hearing stories and concerns via the parent network may give you a lot of useful information.
i found this out too late -- my kid was already in serious trouble by the time i started really talking to other parents. [and i don't mean to suggest your kid is in serious trouble -- but it sure would have helped to have known more, earlier, in our case.] when we did start talking, really talking, it turned out that several other kids in the group were in trouble, too. just sharing information gave other families courage.
i am personally very grateful for a few parent calls i've gotten. the first one, accusing my beautiful boy of being a bad influence, i deeply resented at the time -- but i found out later that the parent caller was right. [a suggestion: mutual cooperation about a concern is a better tack to take than, ''you are a failure as a parent.'' just saying.] after we reluctantly turned to more intense interventions and started really talking, we heard a lot that confirmed we had made the right choice.
more recently, my son's girlfriend's parents told me secretly when he got a DUI, and then they talked him into telling me himself. i am so not thrilled that he got the DUI, but they are angels in my book.
parenting teens is the hardest thing i've ever done. just as when we were new parents and got so much advice and information from everyone, it helps a LOT for parents of teens to be talking. anonymom
I've been discussing these issues with my kid since she was very young and that makes it easier, she's accustomed to talking to me about complex, even uncomfortable issues.
I've told her that her day-to-day freedoms depend on my gut-feeling that she's being safe in the world. I've expressed, over years of conversation, that I trust her and I do. But I'm not a fool, either. I remember my teenage years. My daughter knows what I think.... if she's going to make grown-up/sophisticated social decisions then she certainly ought to be sufficiently mature and confident to explalin and discuss those choices.
She's finishing her Jr. year at Albany High. I don't want her to be alone at College without having had the experience of considering and evaluating and discussing important choices, with me. Albany High Parent
While painting our son's room, we found a stash of booze. We we very surprised. Our son is 15. Has anyone else experienced this, and if so, how did you handle it. Do you think it is what they all experiment with? L.
My son, age 20, went into a store with his friend who is 21. The friend bought some beer, which was put (un- opened) in the trunk of my son's car. As soon as my son pulled away from the curb, a policeman pulled him over and gave him a ticket under DMV code #23224 which states that ''No person under the age of 21 may knowlingly drive a vehicle containing any alcoholic beverage, unless accompanied by a parent, other responsible adult . . .'' My son was surprised that he had done anything wrong - ''I'm just giving my buddy a ride home.'' I didn't know about this law and neither did any of my friends. So I thought it'd be a good thing to publicize.
I looked up the law and was astounded at what I found.
(c) If the vehicle used in any violation of subdivision (a) or (b) is registered to an offender who is under the age of 21 years, the vehicle may be impounded at the owner's expense for not less than one day nor more than 30 days for each violation. (d) Any person under 21 years of age convicted of a violation of this section is subject to Section 13202.5. [note: this is a one-year suspension of drivers license] (e) Any person convicted for a violation of subdivision (a) or (b)is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished upon conviction by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.The law applies to anyone under 21 who is not accompanied by or acting under the reasonable instructions (to dispose of the alcohol) of a parent, responsible adult relative, any other adult designated by the parent, or legal guardian.
This is all the more surprising because at 18 years and older people aren't normally assumed to be under the care of a parent, adult relative or guardian.
Here's a question for all the parents out there: How do we discourage our kids from doing what we did at their age? I was a card-carrying member of the "party scene" I'm afraid to think of how many years ago (early 70's), and did all the things that we don't want our kids to do in high school - alcohol, pot, psychedelics, sex, etc. - and I'd have to say that it was a lot of fun and I don't regret it, in general. However, I don't want to encourage my daughter to follow in my footsteps, because some of my friends had (and may still have) difficulties with substance abuse, in other words, they "couldn't handle it" - I was lucky and survived relatively unscathed, and don't do any drugs or alcohol now (who has the time?). So how do we tell our kids to avoid what we may still consider pleasurable acts/substances without being hypocrites? I haven't had the big sex and drug discussions with my daughter yet because I don't know how to talk to her about this without lying.
It is hard to talk about this with your kid without sounding like you are encouraging them to do it, but when they have asked about it, I've told them the truth and given them my perspective on responsible drug and alcohol use. They know that when I was in college, I experimented with marijuana, LSD, other drugs. In the last 2 decades I have smoked pot only rarely, but they have two uncles who still smoke pot, one of whom has become a kind of family joke - a good counter example. Like the other parent who wrote in, I had fun, and I don't regret it at all. I never was in a truly dangerous position, and the people I knew who WERE harmed had lots of other pre-existing problems. But I remember making fun of parents and teachers who exaggerated the dangers of marijuana - i.e. it will lead to heroin! Because my elders seemed so out of touch with my own reality of hard-working students smoking pot for fun on the weekends, I ignored everything else they said too. Now, I want to be able to give my kids the benefit of my experience and knowledge; if I tell them things that I know aren't true, they will not listen to the important stuff.
My main concern is that I do not want them to get hurt, and I tell them that. I am not going to give them the OK to drink and smoke pot while they are still underage and living at home, but I believe that as they get older, I cannot prevent them from experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and my 17-year-old has begun to do just that. I think my job must be to teach them how to do it responsibly, so that it doesn't interfere with the other things they want to do in their lives. I do my best to stay informed about what they are doing, though of course I can't know everything, and I try to make it hard for them to get their hands on drugs and alcohol. Beyond that, I just talk to them a lot and keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Every family has to decide for themselves how they are going to deal with drugs and alcohol. I would never suggest to anyone else that they should handle it the way I do. But I think it's useful to hear what other families are doing when you are working out your own rules, so I wanted to describe two families who've helped me formulate my rules.
One is my high-school best friend who moved to Hawaii with her husband in the early 70's to grow pot. Eventually they switched to growing coffee and have prospered as farmers over the years. They have always been and always will be hippies. They continued smoking pot, as did most of their friends. Their two sons, who are a few years older than my kids, grew up in a community where all the adults smoked pot at family social gatherings. By the time they were teenagers, these two boys were straight-A students, getting up every morning at 5 to go surfing before school. They are big and strong from working since childhood on the farm and they are the sweetest kids you ever met. This family is very close, a model for a good child-parent relationship. At 15 the younger son began "having a little toke" as my friend put it, every morning before going surfing. His grades started suffering (hard to pay attention if you're stoned) and my friend was in the awkward position of trying to talk her son out of doing something she herself had done every day for the past 25 years. But that is what she did. She never said "don't", she just continued to remind him that if he smoked during the week, it would interfere with his schoolwork, and it is very important to him to keep his grades up. For about half of his junior year, he continued smoking in the mornings, his grades dropped, and my friend worried, and talked only of this whenever I called her. But eventually he figured things out. I think the turning point was that he realized he was a much better surfer when he wasn't stoned. Now both boys are at the University of Hawaii, doing great, and continuing to enjoy a close relationaship with their parents.
Second is a family of two boys that my kids have grown up with in Berkeley. This family lives very simply and everyone in the family has always been very active in local charities. They are my model for kind and good people - the only case I know of where two brothers get along and NEVER fight. (!) The boys have always excelled at school, and both are athletes, one of them all-star-level in two different sports. Though we are not friends socially, over the years my respect for this family has grown and grown. One of my sons is good friends with one of their boys, so I sometimes run into the mother "M" and we chat about our kids. When I discovered last summer that my 16-y-o son was drinking on weekends with his pals, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. I called M, expecting shock from her too, but she told me that she and her husband had realized their boys were drinking and smoking pot too. She said she disagreed with her husband's more liberal position of giving them permission to drink and smoke pot at home, but the parents had agreed on what they'd say to the boys. They had a family pow-wow and reminded them how important sports are to them, and what their long-term plans are for college, and that it is important not to jeopardize these things. They asked them to drink responsibly and never let it interfere with the things that are important to them. M told me that she knows they are drinking and smoking on the weekends, but that she also feels confident they are doing it responsibly. These boys have their own goals and their parents have always given them the responsibility for making the goals happen, so I have no doubt they are rising to the occasion in this case too.
I'm still in the middle of this, and I don't know how things will turn
out, but it does seem important to hand off responsibility to my kid
who will be off on his own in less than two years. He has to learn
how to take care of himself, and make decisions in a smart way. I
can't just shoo him out the door when he's 18 and expect him to
function as an independent person if he has never had any practice
doing that. My other goal: it seems just as important to be honest and
non-evasive with my kids as it does with other close friends and
family members. I know we don't have to tell the kids EVERYTHING, and
there are times when we probably shouldn't. They don't tell us
everything either. But I am hoping to have a long-term relationship
with these kids, and since good adult relationships thrive on trust,
respect, and honesty, it must work with your kids too.
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