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Back Talk: Teen drinking at home, under parental supervision?


Back TalkTribLocal and The Mash, the Chicago Tribune’s weekly newspaper and website serving teenagers in the city and suburbs, recently asked area high school students about the most pressing questions they have for members of their parents’ generation. As part of the regular Back Talk column, we’ll pose these questions to TribLocal’s parent bloggers, who are able to draw on their own experiences raising kids in the suburbs.

Editor’s note: The following letters have been edited for clarity and length.

QUESTION: What do you think of parents letting teens drink at home, under parental supervision and no car keys allowed?

Emma Goodwin, Palatine High School

Emma Goodwin, Palatine High School

Depending on the teen, the situation and the relationship between the parents and child, drinking at home with parental supervision is perfectly acceptable. I think that it’s stupid for kids to go out and get wasted on the weekends with no care about the repercussions that could come from it. I can only imagine how worried some parents could be about the things that their kids would face at a party with drinking, especially if they believe that their child has never had a drink before.

If parents take away the “forbidden feeling” that teens associate with drinking, I believe that some kids won’t feel the need to go to parties to drink. At that point, there’s little surprise to what drinking will bring. Also, it helps kids better understand how they’ll react to alcohol, which helps them to make better choices and be prepared for different situations.

However, just because I think it’s OK for a parent to let their child have a few sips of alcohol while they’re at home doesn’t mean that parents should condone drinking. Accepting it and trying to keep their child safe is different from encouraging it. It should also remain an “offer” between the parents and their teen. When parents start supplying drinks for all of their kids’ friends, that becomes a different issue.

Allowing a child to sample alcohol is a really smart idea for parents who want their kids to be educated about the effects of alcohol on one’s cognitive state, and I truly believe that it can help teens make better choices. However, parents should only allow it in moderation and strictly only when the parents are home.

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Jack Howard, York Community High School

Jack Howard, York Community High School

Ideally, the U.S. could be as progressive as our European neighbors, who start mixing wine into their children’s water a few years after they’re old enough to hold their own glasses. Unfortunately, learning through binge drinking seems to be the status quo in American society, especially on college campuses.

But it’s an interesting question: Under harm-free circumstances, with supervision and without legal consequences, should parents educate their own teenage children how to safely consume alcohol?
Phrased this way, one needs to read no further to glean that I believe it is parents’ obligation to parent. Teachers, coaches and school administrators have increasingly filled this void, lecturing and often disciplining students who not only drink underage but are naive enough to post pictures of it online.

Parents may have made mistakes before. They may also be on Facebook. But I don’t think they’d share, “Providing alcohol to my sons (both minors!). #yolo!”

P.S. Moms and dads, ask your son or daughter what “#yolo” means. Also, offer them a drink. Hash tags are pretty hard to explain.

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Khalil Beckwith, junior, King College Prep

Khalil Beckwith, King College Prep

If your kid is responsible, then allowing them to drink in a controlled environment may be a good idea. It may teach them a lesson about partying and what to expect when they get to college. The last thing any parent wants is for their kid to go nuts at the first taste of freedom. However, alcohol should only be used with kids to teach them lessons, not for recreation.

But there’s a flip side for irresponsible kids. Most of the time, kids don’t drink because they so desperately want alcohol in their system. They drink because its edgy and rebellious. Doing it under supervision takes away what irresponsible kids are really attracted to and therefore won’t teach them any lessons.

At that point it’s not worth doing and they’ll probably want to find adventure somewhere else. It really depends on how smart your kids are.

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Sara Angel, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School

Sara Angel, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School

I think it’s OK to let teens drink under parental supervision at home. Parents essentially have the final say in what goes on inside the home, therefore if the parent is OK with letting their teenager have a drink, then there shouldn’t be an issue.

Of course, there will always be certain guidelines that pertain to these kinds of situations. A parent letting their teen get completely trashed is unacceptable. A parent shouldn’t be able to sit and watch their child intoxicate themselves to the point where it’s hazardous.

In my household, sometimes my dad will have a beer with dinner. I’ve always been able to take a sip because my parents know once I take that sip, the temptation of drinking will be satisfied. With that “one sip rule” established, there has always been a trust between my parents and I when it comes to drinking. Any alcoholic beverage that I have in the house is approved by them.

In terms of a parent supervising their teen and some friends, the rules change yet again. As a teen, I would not feel comfortable having a drink with a friend’s parent and a parent shouldn’t be allowed to give a drink to an underage child who is not theirs.


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