Opinion: Alcohol and kids

POSTED: 11/25/11 12:40 PM

A Dutch pediatrician wrote a book about alcohol and kids, and he came to a conclusion that we find rather doubtful, or at least debatable.

The story came out after a newspaper in the Netherlands reported that a ten-year-old boy had been hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, setting a new record as the youngest binge drinker in the country’s history.

The pediatrician says in his book that parent who drink alcohol set a bad example for their children and he holds that drinking under supervision at home is a bad idea.

We beg to differ. We’re not saying that parents ought to educate their children in how to get drunk in six easy steps, or that they ought to teach their kids how to treat their hangovers.

But we have to be realistic here. Sooner or later, kids will start wondering about that stuff called alcohol – be it beer, wine, vodka, whisky or whatever else there is on the market. Children also love to experiment. They experiment with electricity and if they survive to tell that story, they will continue with other experiments in the field of, say, sex, tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

We understand that parents do not want their kids to become alcoholics, drug addicts or sex maniacs. The question is: how does one go about this to get the best results?

Forbid children to drink, smoke and have sex? Sure, up to a certain age that will work. You do not encourage a six-year-old to sample your Jack Daniels. But sooner or later real life comes knocking on your door.

Kids watch TV. They go to places where parents never come; therefore, parents have no idea what is going on in those places. And let’s not forget, most kids have friends with an equal thirst for experiments.

When you don’t know what your children are up to, you have no control over it. When you offer your children their first experience with risky behavior (like getting drunk or stoned) in a safe environment at least they will go through all this without ending up in a police cell, or worse, dead in the bushes.

There is therefore something to be said in favor of having these experiments take place at home. Mind you, such an experiment is not an encouragement to start drinking or smoking. It is a way to give children a first taste of real life. Because sooner or later (and we know, most parents think against their better judgment that all these things will happen later) children will find themselves in a situation where they have to deal with questions like, to drink or not to drink. A bit of homegrown experience won’t hurt. On the contrary, it will give children a better chance to make their own sensible decisions.

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