Michelle Teheux: Alcohol attitudes need a shot of common sense
“Demon rum” is alive and well.
Though Prohibition ended in 1933, still we persist in viewing alcohol not as something that can add a small pleasure to everyday life but as something inherently evil.
And yes, used inappropriately, alcohol can indeed ruin and even end lives. But that’s why I believe our society should normalize its relationship with alcohol.
Part of that would include teaching young people about alcohol at home. If you model responsible drinking in front of your children, I believe they’re more likely to drink responsibly themselves.
I also believe part of teaching children about alcohol is removing its mystique. If your teenager wants to taste your wine, I see nothing wrong with pouring a small amount into a glass and inviting him or her to try it. Although most people don’t realize it, it’s perfectly legal to provide small amounts of alcohol to your own child in your own home.
If you’re having wine with Thanksgiving dinner or champagne on New Year’s Eve, there’s no reason you should not let your older children have a small amount.
I am a mother, not an expert, but I believe the key to teaching your children to handle alcohol responsibly is to be a decent role model. They should see that you don’t drink on a daily basis.
They should never see you drink to excess. Certainly they should never see you drinking and driving. They should observe that when you plan to drink, you plan for a safe ride home.
They should see that some adults enjoy an occasional drink and that other adults don’t, and that either choice is OK.
In my home, I like to drink and my husband does not. So I sometimes sip a Jack Daniels and Coke while he works on a cup of French-press coffee strong enough to eat through the china.
My 16-year-old has no interest in sampling either drink, preferring to stick to root beer or Mountain Dew.
You use your common sense. You don’t provide alcohol for your child to take elsewhere. You don’t allow your child to host a drinking party. You don’t let your child drink to excess. You don’t let your child’s friends have any alcohol.
If we brought common sense to our cultural beliefs about alcohol, we’d eliminate the drinking age and allow each family to make this decision for itself.
I believe we do vastly more harm than good in treating alcohol as something young people must never touch until the magic age of 21 arrives. A child is mature enough to drive a vehicle at 16 but not mature enough to drink until he’s 21? Does it really require five more years of maturity to drink than to drive? Why can you marry, vote, join the military, have children and sign contracts all before you are old enough to drink?
We put an awful lot of time and energy into trying to keep 18-year-olds from drinking when we could be making more progress by teaching them to do it responsibly. It’s just silly.
Setting the age at 21 causes young people to learn to do their drinking in the dark, away from adult eyes, rather than under the watchful eyes of responsible adults. That can’t be good.
Modeling responsible drinking for your children doesn’t offer any absolute guarantee they won’t ever come home drunk at 4 a.m., of course.
But ask yourself this: How do you think the system is working for us now?
Michelle Teheux can be reached at (309) 346-1111 or email@example.com.