Santa’s reindeer don’t drink, and neither should teens

Dec. 20, 2018

Young women standing together and holding drinks

“Finals week was tough. She just needs to blow off steam with her friends.” “I’d rather he and his buddies drink here at home, where I can keep an eye on them.” “When the kids have friends over, we let them have some wine at dinner with the family — it’s tradition!” Ever heard these excuses to allow underage drinking? Then you should know that not a single one of them is legitimate – at the holidays, or ever.

The drinking age is 21 for a reason. A person’s brain isn’t fully developed in the teenage years. In fact, a person’s brain continues to form even after the teenage years are over. And the rational part? That’s not finished developing until about age 25. Which means kids under the drinking age don’t have the capacity for good judgment that adults do.

What else impairs judgment? Bingo: alcohol. Combine alcohol with a brain that isn’t yet fully developed, and you have a recipe for some seriously poor decisions. Such as driving, for example.

Over the last five years in Minnesota, there have been 173 crashes involving teen drivers who had been drinking. As a result of those crashes, 15 people died, 11 of whom were teens. Not to mention the 84 people seriously injured, 61 of whom were teens. And if injury and death aren’t consequences enough, teens who drink and drive can face civil or even criminal charges.

The consequences of underage drinking, whether it’s accompanied by driving or not, can extend to you as a parent as well. For example, you may think you’re being safe by letting your children and their friends drink at your house, but even if you don’t give them the alcohol yourself, it’s illegal to have knowledge of a party where minors are consuming alcohol in your home.

So how do you prevent underage drinking as a parent? As with most parenting issues, good communication is the key. A lot of us have the “don’t drink or do drugs” talk with our kids when they’re in middle school, but those conversations need to continue into high school and, yes, even college. Be sure to focus on the consequences of their actions. Kids need to see that impulsive thinking can have real and lasting negative results. The Mayo Clinic has more good tips on how to talk to your teen about alcohol.

So welcome your college student home with open arms. Have fun at those holiday dinners with your high-schooler and their friends. But draw the line at alcohol use. Underage drinking is a great way to ruin the holidays for family and friends, especially your teen.