At the time of year when family gatherings are most prevalent, the question arrises of whether drinking with your children is an acceptable or potentially disastrous concept. I recall my Grandad sipping Bourbon and Coke on such occasions, the only times I witnessed any evidence that he drank. I was ten the first time he offered me a very small version of such a beverage, which I cautiously accepted. The early parameters of alcohol consumption became set in my mind, intentionally or not. Drinking was for family and celebration, and never to excess.
Family attitudes and examples with alcohol can have positive impact. This is not encouragement or endorsement of underage or excessive consumption of alcohol. I'm not talking about providing alcohol for a teen party. If the parents are going to drink, It makes sense that if drinking is done with disciplined moderation, and they openly educate their children on potential dangers as well as safe use of alcohol, those children will be better prepared to act responsibly with alcohol.
In the United States, while firmly outlawing adults providing alcohol to underage drinkers who are not their children, most states provide legal exceptions that allow children of the parent to drink if the parent is present, in private settings. In Europe, legal drinking ages are lower, and acceptance of young drinkers is widespread, especially when accompanied by parents. Also of interest, alcohol in European countries is often regarded and consumed as a food product, rather than an exotic and evil intoxicant. This observance can make a big difference in a youthful temperament. Advanced Sommelier Paul Botamer said at his home, he gives his teenage daughter, "just a little sip, so she knows there’s nothing mysterious going on.” I have shared tastes of beverages with my teenage children, who likely know more about the subject than they care to. The presentation from parents to children of what alcohol is, represents, and how it can be properly appreciated can be a powerful influence.
Studies and opinions support both sides of the drinking with family argument. Caution must be exercised, of course, for every unique individual and event. Due to availability and aggressive marketing, children will learn about alcohol in one way or another, and probably at a younger age than we typically imagine. Whether or not samples are included, a balanced schooling by parents, where alcohol is neither a dark secret nor consumed to an extreme, might prove most effective.