Every November, I look forward to the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau. As a wine enthusiast, it is one of the most exciting events of the year. I usually buy a couple of cases to share with friends and to enjoy during the holiday season.
Each year, my kids are curious about this large wine purchase, especially my 12 year old son.
“Why are you buying so much wine?” He asks.
“Because it’s only available once a year,” I say. ” I have to get it before it runs out.”
“What does it taste like?” He asks.
If someone else had asked this question, I’d launch into a detailed description of the tasting notes and aroma. But for my son, I simply say, “It tastes like grape juice, but not as sweet.”
The next question he asks is one that many parents must address at some point.
“Can I taste it?”
“I’m sorry, son,” I say. “But you’re not old enough. Wine is a drink for adults.” That answer is sufficient for my son because we’ve had other conversations about alcohol. But it took several discussions for us to get to this point.
Many parents are adamantly against giving their child a sip (46% say no), but other parents are more liberal and let their child have a sip. A recent study shows that 37% of kids have had a sip of alcohol by the age of 8. That number rises to 66% by the age of 12.
I had my first sip of alcohol when I was around my son’s age. An older cousin gave me a sip of beer because he wanted to see my reaction when I tasted it. As he expected, I didn’t like it one bit. It was bitter and strong. I spit it out and rinsed out my mouth to remove the taste. My cousin couldn’t stop laughing. But that experience made me never want to drink beer.
I know several parents who have given their children a sip of alcohol hoping that the taste will deter them from wanting it in the future. However, research shows that earlier drinking is a risk factor for problem drinking in adolescence. Adults who took their first drink before the age of 15 were 7 times more likely to experience alcohol problems than those who didn’t start until 21.
A friend of mine recently shared this story with me:
When my son was younger, I had to work nights and weekends. When I got home, I’d take a drink of bourbon to relax. I kept the bottle in a cabinet above the refrigerator to keep it away from my son. Over time, I started to notice that I was buying new bottles more frequently. I started to worry that I was developing a drinking problem. My son, who is 21 now, finally revealed the truth. He’d have a small drink right before I got home every night. He started taking sips of the bourbon because he saw me do it. Now he keeps a bottle of bourbon in his pantry.
Kids are curious about alcohol and they will take action to sate their curiosity. That is why parents must have a frank discussion about responsible drinking. With the holidays approaching, kids will be exposed to alcohol at parties, on TV, and in the songs they listen to. Tis the season to talk to your kids about alcohol.
Join the conversation: Do you allow your kids to sip alcohol? Why or why not?