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Old 03-26-2008, 10:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Can Sips at Home Prevent Binges?

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Source: NYTimes
View: Can Sips at Home Prevent Binges?

March 26, 2008
The Pour
Can Sips at Home Prevent Binges?
By ERIC ASIMOV

PARENTS always want to share their passions with their children. Whether you’re a fan of baseball or the blues, sailing or tinkering with old cars, few things are as rewarding as seeing a spark of receptivity in the eyes of the next generation.

It usually doesn’t take. Most of the time kids — teenagers, anyway — would as soon snicker at their old man’s obsessions as indulge him. Even so, I can’t help hoping that my sons might share my taste in music and food, books and movies, ball teams and politics. Why should wine be any different?

It’s the alcohol, of course, which makes wine not just tricky but potentially hazardous. Nonetheless, I would like to teach my sons — 16 and 17 — that wine is a wonderful part of a meal. I want to teach them to enjoy it while also drumming it into them that when abused, wine, like any other alcoholic beverage, can be a grave danger.

As they were growing up I occasionally gave them tastes from my glass — an unusual wine, perhaps, or a taste of Champagne on New Year’s Eve. They’ve had sips at Seders and they see wine nightly at our dinner table. With both boys now in high school, I thought it was time to offer them the option of small tastes at dinner.

In European wine regions, a new parent might dip a finger in the local pride and wipe it lovingly across an infant’s lips — “just to give the taste.” A child at the family table might have a spoonful of wine added to the water, because it says, “You are one of us.” A teenager might have a small glass of wine, introducing an adult pleasure in a safe and supervised manner. This is how I imagined it in my house.

But about a year ago, my wife attended a gathering on the Upper East Side sponsored by several high schools addressing the topic of teenagers and alcohol.

The highly charged discussion centered on the real dangers of binge drinking and peer pressure, of brain damage and parental over-permissiveness, and of the law.

One authority disparaged the European model, saying that teenage drinking in Europe — never mind which part — is much worse than it is in the United States. The underlying message was that nothing good comes from mixing alcohol and teenagers.

My wife was shaken. We agreed to hold off on the tasting plan. But I decided to try to get some answers myself.

I found ample evidence of the dangers of abusive drinking. Recent studies have shown that heavy drinking does more damage to the teenage brain than previously suspected, while the part of the brain responsible for judgment is not even fully formed until the age of 25.

“If we were to argue that responsible drinking requires a responsible brain, theoretically we wouldn’t introduce alcohol until 25,” said Dr. Ralph I. Lopez, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Weill-Cornell Medical College who specializes in adolescents.

The law specifies 21 as the age when people can buy and drink alcohol. Bill Crowley, a spokesman for the New York State Liquor Authority, confirmed that it was illegal to give anyone underage a taste of an alcoholic beverage in a restaurant, cafe or bar. But in the home?

“We don’t have any jurisdiction over what happens in the home,” Mr. Crowley said. Of course, each state’s laws differ, and lack of jurisdiction doesn’t mean immunity. The police or social service agencies could intervene if underage bingeing were encouraged in the home. And when driving is a factor, everything changes. But inside the home, the law, at least, seems to permit the small tastes that I had in mind.

Even so, are small tastes justified? Abundant research shows the dangers of heavy drinking and the necessity of getting help with teenage alcohol abuse. But little guidance is offered on teaching teenagers about the pleasures of wine with a meal.

It would be easy to preach abstinence to children until they’re 21, but is it naive and even irresponsible to think that teenagers won’t experiment? Might forbidding even a taste of wine with a meal actually encourage secrecy and recklessness?

Some experts think so. Dr. Lopez began to offer his daughter a little wine at dinner when she was 13.

“You have to look at a family and decide where alcohol fits,” he said. “If you demonstrate the beauty of wine, just as you would Grandma’s special pie, then it augments a meal. However, if there is an issue about drinking within a family then it’s a different situation.”

If a family member had an alcohol problem, or if cocktails were served regularly for relaxation, he said, “That’s a different message than wine at the table.”

I called Dr. Paul Steinberg, a psychiatrist in Washington, who is the former director of counseling at Georgetown University.

“The best evidence shows that teaching kids to drink responsibly is better than shutting them off entirely from it,” he told me. “You want to introduce your kids to it, and get across the point that that this is to be enjoyed but not abused.”

He said that the most dangerous day of a young person’s life is the 21st birthday, when legality is celebrated all too fervently. Introducing wine as a part of a meal, he said, was a significant protection against bingeing behavior.

What is the evidence? In 1983, Dr. George E. Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, published “The Natural History of Alcoholism,” a landmark work that drew on a 40-year survey of hundreds of men in Boston and Cambridge.

Dr. Vaillant compared 136 men who were alcoholics with men who were not. Those who grew up in families where alcohol was forbidden at the table, but was consumed away from the home, apart from food, were seven times more likely to be alcoholics that those who came from families where wine was served with meals but drunkenness was not tolerated.

He concluded that teenagers should be taught to enjoy wine with family meals, and 25 years later Dr. Vaillant stands by his recommendation. “The theoretical position is: driving a car, shooting a rifle, using alcohol are all dangerous activities,” he told me, “and the way you teach responsibility is to let parents teach appropriate use.”

“If you are taught to drink in a ceremonial way with food, then the purpose of alcohol is taste and celebration, not inebriation,” he added. “If you are forbidden to use it until college then you drink to get drunk.”

In a more recent study of 80 teenagers and 80 young adults in Italy, Lee Strunin, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, found that drinking wine in a family setting offered some protection against bingeing and may encourage moderate drinking. But she cautioned against extrapolating from Italy to the United States.

Her colleague, David Rosenbloom, director of the School of Public Health’s Youth Alcohol Prevention Center, emphasized that family context was crucial. “Does the kid see the parents drunk?” he asked. “Does the kid understand expectations? Is there violence in the family setting?”

“It is certainly possible that in some family contexts the introduction of wine at family dinners could have a mild protective factor,” he said, adding that he believes that expecting abstinence is a perfectly reasonable parental position.

In the best of all possible worlds, I suppose, young adults would not touch alcohol until they turn 25 and then would instantly understand the pleasures of moderate consumption. It seems to me as silly to imagine that as it is to expect the same at 21.

Although the issue is not settled in my household, my cautious opinion now is that my teenage sons have more to gain than to lose by having a taste of wine now and then with dinner. By taste, I mean just that: a couple of sips, perhaps, not a full glass, and decidedly not for any of their friends, whose own parents must make their own decisions.

The years between ages 15 and 25 are dangerous straits, and it doesn’t help to know that alcohol is associated with many of the hazards young adults face. Finding that sweet spot between sanctimony and self-centered frivolity is a parent’s job. I think I’m there, but it’s not quite comfortable.
We had wine with dinner on a regular basis. I was allowed to have grand marnier in coffee at a young age. I was allowed to drink at home as a teen.

This did nothing to prevent me from binging when I had the opportunity. I didn't drink for taste, I drank for effect.

I taught my sister how to drink and not get wasted so I thought. But I just gave her a higher tolerance so that guys couldn't get her drunk and take advantage of her. She too could binge very well in college. But she didn't continue to drink, I did.

I do think that it's a good thing to expose kids to alcohol at an early age. It gives them an understanding of a very complex system and lifestyle that makes them feel more comfortable in social settings when they are older.
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Old 03-26-2008, 10:22 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think it's all about the situation. If I as a parent notice that I have some addictive qualities and those same qualities are in the children then I have to be a bit more careful about introducing the alcohol. Of course if it was used to augment meals and taught that moderation is the key then hopefully that would curb any binging.

but then.. I fully expect the kid to be a kid and try to get away with whatever they can. that's just part of life.

in my own situation, any type of alcohol consumption was sinful to my parents. so it wasn't introduced in any form or manner. so what did I do? well.. I think most of you know the answer to that question. there's a fine line in this somewhere..it's just finding where it is for you and your kids.
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Old 03-26-2008, 10:26 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Being brought up as the child of children of alcoholics, I've (hopefully) been given both a clear warning and perspective regarding alcoholism. I have memories of my grandmother and grandfather being intoxicated and I developed a strong aversion to alcohol as a result. I will occasionally drink alcohol, but never in my life have I been intoxicated to any real degree nor will I ever.

IMHO, this is the appropriate behavior to model to children, but allowing them to break the law is massively irresponsible and stupid. Allowing children to consume alcohol here in the US is illegal. Teaching your children that some laws can be ignored when you know you won't be caught is a terrible lesson. If you want your child to enjoy alcohol with dinner, cook it in the meal, burning off the alcohol. I've got hundreds of recipes that include wines that you can have, but don't let your kids drink unless it's legal where you live.
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Old 03-26-2008, 10:28 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I used to live in Portugal (and we should get Little_Tippler to comment on this as well) and I'm not sure if there was a legal age to drink or not, but teenagers used to have beer in the cafes and there wasn't as much of a binge sort of mentality amonst the teenagers as there is in North America. The bar I used to work in, would get little kids coming in at night, trying to get a drink at the bar, but the bartender would just give the kid a swat and send him back out into the night. When they got older (pre-teen) and young teen age, they would graduate to a drink called a "Christo" which was cherry syrup and beer. I used to see quite young children at dinners in restaurants with their family having a glass of wine with their meals. I believed then, as I still do now, that there is nothing wrong with giving children a introduction into drinking. Better to instill your values about drinking with your children as they grow up then to have them come up with their own at some 'teenage beer drinking party.'
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Old 03-26-2008, 09:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willravel
Being brought up as the child of children of alcoholics, I've (hopefully) been given both a clear warning and perspective regarding alcoholism. I have memories of my grandmother and grandfather being intoxicated and I developed a strong aversion to alcohol as a result. I will occasionally drink alcohol, but never in my life have I been intoxicated to any real degree nor will I ever.
Same here, except that I WAS the child of an alcoholic father. Yet, I decided not to touch alcohol even during my teenage years. The only hard liquor I've ever finished off were three peach schnapps, taken on three different days some twenty years ago. I haven't touched anything else since then.

My father did wise up in the end, but the damage was already done. After suffering from various health problems for ten years, he died last August of liver cancer at the age of 75.

So no, I don't want a drink.
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Old 03-26-2008, 10:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willravel
Allowing children to consume alcohol here in the US is illegal.
Actually, it's not. In Oregon, it's legal for minors to consume alcohol in their own home with parental supervision. So having wine at home with my parents as a teen (not that I did often, my dad is allergic to sulfites) would have been completely legal. I was allowed to have wine with dinner at Thanksgiving and other special occasions where wine was served for guests. I was allowed to try my dad's beers, if I wished. When I was 19 and living in the dorms at college my mom volunteered to buy me all the liquor I liked before I went back to school, so long as I promised to use it wisely and safely (I paid for it all myself). I should note I kept to that promise.

I have to be honest--I didn't start binge drinking in any sense until I was old enough to buy for myself. Even then, it was because that was the culture I was in (college), and because that was what my peers were doing. It was not on a regular basis, and I quit doing it many moons ago. Now, I drink wine and beer now and again, only one or two, and I am very responsible about my consumption. I'm fairly sure my parents' allowance of alcohol played no role in my choices to binge drink, and it was more about belonging in the group than anything else.
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Old 03-26-2008, 10:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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ok so my family liked to get together and drink, a lot, my dad was alway out to sea, so it was my mom and grandparents. I was treated as an equal as I was growing up at the table and participated in a lot of discussion with them as they drank, eventually, as I became the only sober person in the room, it became apparent that they were getting dumber. like clockwork, every night ended with my grandmother and mother getting into screaming matches over religion, politics, relationships, or finances. Basically my mom couldn't do anything right in the eyes of my grandmother and I watched that relationship unfold every weekend, I eventually picked up on the trend that it was always the alchohol they blamed the next day when they "kiss and make up"

I thought it was sad, that 2 adults, would resort to childish behavior, and it just reminded me that possibly, deep down, maybe thats all we are, and we're just conditioned with our own human version of a HAL. Basically a "soft" translator between our emotions and our mouth that goes through the filters of the other person's "HAL", comes back through it as a response.

the alchohol desolves away at this social conditioning

as far as the topic, I agree, i drink for effect, not for taste. I drink to strip away my "agent smith" who keeps my mouth glued shut in social situations. I have social anxiety and while it may not be the best method, it works. It strips away that stress and lets me chill out and socialize.
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Old 03-26-2008, 10:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Drinking at home under the supervision of your parents is legal in 14 states, and unless you did something really egregious you'd probably be able to do it and get away with it in all the states. I think modeling good behavior with alcohol as well as letting kids try (though obviously not get drunk) is an excellent way to prevent binging later in life. I firmly believe that a lot of our problems with college students and alcohol is because they've never had any exposure to it before in a social setting and the novelty has an enormous draw.

The alcohol laws in this country are awful, but I think parents can and should do their best to make sure that kids have a healthier experience with and knowledge about alcohol.
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Old 04-06-2008, 01:35 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucifer
I used to live in Portugal (and we should get Little_Tippler to comment on this as well) and I'm not sure if there was a legal age to drink or not, but teenagers used to have beer in the cafes and there wasn't as much of a binge sort of mentality amonst the teenagers as there is in North America. The bar I used to work in, would get little kids coming in at night, trying to get a drink at the bar, but the bartender would just give the kid a swat and send him back out into the night. When they got older (pre-teen) and young teen age, they would graduate to a drink called a "Christo" which was cherry syrup and beer. I used to see quite young children at dinners in restaurants with their family having a glass of wine with their meals. I believed then, as I still do now, that there is nothing wrong with giving children a introduction into drinking. Better to instill your values about drinking with your children as they grow up then to have them come up with their own at some 'teenage beer drinking party.'
I don't remember much about this topic with regards to my own childhood actually. I do know that I don't usually see little kids being given wine at meals here in public. It's not that common, but I guess people let their kids have sips at home. I remember I didn't like wine (or thought I didn't) when I was little and my father would offer it to me on occasion, just for a taste. I only properly tried wine when I was about 15, because I hade refused to taste up until then. I thought it smelled yucky.

From 16 onwards I was having drinks out occasionally with friends - beer, shots, cocktails. It didn't do me any harm. I'm pretty sure that if we weren't allowed it would have been worse, as in we'd make it a point to be able to get a drink any way we could. Like smoking up was a much bigger deal then, drinks, eeh. In this way, since nobody was controlling it, it was just something natural, that you can have or not, depending on what you're in the mood for. Of course there's always bingers, but it's not a big thing.

Nowadays I hardly drink, only when I go out with friends, and usually only one or two drinks. Sometimes none at all.

I don't see why kids shouldn't be able to taste it early on. As long as it's supervised and they are taught about its dangers. If it's forbidden, it will become an objective, for sure. I don't think, however, that people become alcoholics because they were denied booze at an early age. To me alcoholism has to do more with a particular mindset more than anything else.
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Old 04-06-2008, 01:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I do believe that giving alcohol to children in moderation is a good way to avoid excessive binging.

Sure of course they're going to do it, but at least if they've been introduced to alcohol, how to be reponsible with it, the effects and after-effects, then they will be better prepared when they do go out and get totally battered.

I'm not going to get into alcoholism, i'm too tired.
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Old 04-06-2008, 03:26 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I sometimes had small glasses of wine and tastes of my dads beer when I was younger. I still drank a lot in college when school allowed for it.

In Texas a minor can drink with a parent/gaurdian at a restaurant or other place in public as long as they are with their parent (http://www.tabc.state.tx.us/LegInfo/MinorCode.htm)
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Old 04-06-2008, 03:29 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I don't think it matters at all whether kids are exposed to alcohol, taught moderation, told never to drink and drive or whatever.

It depends on their level of maturity, personality and how well they are learning and coping with the barrage of negative and positive affects that continue to influence them in becoming individuals.

I think awareness is a good thing but too much may lead to complacency
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Old 04-06-2008, 04:25 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I really don't know if moderation at home will help prevent binging in the future. My mother is an alcoholic; I didn't drink until I was legally able to do so because watching her behavior growing up totally turned me off of alcohol for a long time. My brother was a full fledged alcoholic in his early 20's. I just hope I can instill a healthier appreciation and concern for alcohol in my son than I had growing up...I want him to know it's ok in moderation but overindulgence can be harmful.
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Old 04-06-2008, 05:32 PM   #14 (permalink)
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My family is English - hence, most of them are booze hounds as it is part of the culture. Lots of early exposure in both a family context and otherwise. Didn't stop most of us from drinking too much.

The UK has a huge drinking problem that people are only starting to come to terms with.
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