Dear Dr. Wallace:
I’m always wondering where underage teens get the alcohol they end up drinking. Almost all establishments that sell alcohol won’t sell to young people unless they have proof they’re at least 21 years old. Do they steal it from their parents, or do they have another adult purchase it for them? It appears to me that teens seeking alcohol oftentimes have little problem getting it. My 17-year-old son was actually given beer by his best friend’s stepfather. This made me unhappy, to say the least.
In your experience, how do you think most teens acquire alcohol? It seems that quite a few seek it. It seems they are curious about how they will feel once they try it, and they all seem to believe they can handle it — before even trying it for the first time. I have heard too many sad stories about teens and alcohol to simply look the other way.
— Unhappy Mother,
Dear Unhappy Mother: It’s true that underage drinkers quite often have little problem getting alcohol. According to letters I have received over the years, I’d say that about two thirds of teens who drink are given alcohol by their parents or other adults. This is a very troubling fact. I’ve even had parents tell me they gave their underage teens alcohol in their home since, “It’s better for them to drink at home that out somewhere they could really get in trouble.”
Like you, unhappy mother, I have had the sad experience of reading about several sad stories involving teens and alcohol. I’ve counseled parents who have lost their children in automobile crashes where the cause was a teen driver who had consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
For many reasons, I firmly stand behind the law and do not believe in any adult encouraging or providing a teen with access to alcohol. So much can go wrong, and, tragically, it often does. Thank you for your letter, I firmly agree with you on this topic.