Back in the olden days when I was a teenager, Christians for the most part didn’t drink. Then some smart kid a few years older than me accurately pointed out the scriptures actually caution against getting drunk or being partial to strong drink. Of course, the whole Jesus turning the water into wine and not grape juice was added for emphasis and a generation of drinking Christians was born.
Those of us who knew all of the problems alcohol could cause in life, still believed it was a wise decision to avoid drinking alcohol almost entirely and encouraged our kids to make the same choice. Unfortunately, many parents didn’t feel they could use the Bible anymore and so their only caution was to obey the laws of the land and wait until they were 21 to drink. I guess they figured by then maturity would reign and things would be fine. What they forgot is that they regularly broke traffic and other laws themselves, so encouraging their kids to obey a “silly” law was basically useless.
The older I get the more I realize the reasons God cautioned Christians multiple times in different ways to be wary of alcohol. The reality is, choosing to drink can result in a lot of negative consequences. I believe God’s laws are not rules to keep us from having fun, but to guide us in having the best, most productive, fulfilling life possible on earth. Because of this, when we taught our daughter about debatable subjects like alcohol, we made sure she understood some of the reasons why God might not think it is a good idea to drink alcohol (or do whatever).
You can arm your children with the tools to make good life choices based on godly principles. It begins with giving them accurate information and possible reasons behind God’s commands. They need to understand the possible consequences that can happen now if they begin testing the waters on borderline issues like alcohol. Here are some thoughts you may want to consider sharing with your teens:
- God definitely calls drunkenness a sin. My question has always been, “When do you cross that line into sinful drinking?” Is it when you start feeling “buzzed” or do you have to pass out? Since I don’t know for sure, I tend to err on the side of caution and not allow myself to get anywhere close to the line.
- Yes, it’s fine to remind your teens drinking any alcohol is illegal until they are twenty-one. I would caution you though that this is a fairly flimsy excuse in the eyes of most teens – especially when they watch their parents routinely pick and choose which laws they are obeying (“Traffic laws are merely suggestions”, ring any bells?)
- Alcohol is an addictive substance. Period. Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others. If your child was born to an addicted mother who drank heavily during pregnancy, your child was already born an addict and should never drink. If your family has multiple alcoholics in its history, your child may be predisposed to addiction. Addictive behaviors are often set up by relying on a particular thing to get you through stressful times. Soon everything is stressful and the physical dependence can begin. Caution your children to avoid drinking when they “need” it or “want/crave” it. While “stress” drinking is not a guarantee of addiction, it is not a good habit to begin.
- Many people will say they drink to “forget” a problem. The problem is, alcohol can cause you to forget a lot more than your problem. Like your values, or what you did while drunk. If I had ever been tempted to get drunk, listening to a girl on my freshman hall cry her eyes out after waking up in a strange place, in a strange bed, with a strange guy and having no earthly idea what, if anything, had happened – scared me straight for life.
- “Bad” people will take advantage of the inebriated state of others. If you listen carefully, most sex crimes against college aged girls happen when the girl was out drinking. That does not excuse the “bad” person’s criminal and sinful behavior, but it can cause your drinking child to be targeted as the next victim for these predators.
- Drunk is not pretty. Pretty much ever. People often think they are funnier or better dancers or sexier when they are drunk. Actually, they are just sad and/or disgusting the vast majority of the time. If someone filmed them when they were drunk and played it back when they were sober, I’m guessing most people would not like what they saw.
- People use alcohol to cover social anxiety or a lack of social skills. The problem is for most people it just puts them in the above category of drunk is not pretty. For mild social anxiety, studies have shown having a glass of water or soda in your hand helps as much or more than alcohol. If the social skills need a lot of help, therapy or skills training will do a lot more good than alcohol.
- Alcohol kills. From drunk driving to the brain cells that die every time you drink to the huge increase in the likelihood a woman will get breast cancer, alcohol is not friendly to your body. The studies about heart health have shown the same benefits can be found from drinking grape juice without the negative issues of alcohol. Personally, most people (including myself) don’t appear to have more brain cells than they need – so that alone was a game changer for me.
- Alcohol is a depressant. I have never understood why people would drink a depressant when they are already depressed. There are probably a lot of physical reasons why most suicides happen after the person has been drinking alcohol.
- Alcohol is tough on relationships. I have witnessed many people fighting more because they were half drunk than because there was an actual important issue being defended. And ask the ex-wife or husband of an alcoholic what alcohol did for their marriage and you will see relationships and alcohol don’t mix.
- Getting drunk makes you feel like death warmed over the next day. College (and life) is tough enough. Do you really want to waste an entire day feeling that bad – on purpose? Of course, the old drinking the hair of the dog puts you into a potentially addictive cycle which is hard to break.
- Alcohol lies. I have seen many “functional” alcoholics in my day. Many were moms with kids still at home. They may be functioning, but I have yet to see one who’s kids aren’t suffering. In fact, with their friends, most of these kids will tell stories of how much they hate their parent’s constant drinking. If you asked any of these people who drink multiple drinks most days of the week, they would tell you they definitely do not have an alcohol problem. Just because someone isn’t lying in a gutter does not mean they don’t need to heavily curtail or stop drinking.
- Alcohol keeps you from reaching your God given potential. To me this is the saddest one of all. God has so many wonderful plans for your children. If they are clouded with alcohol or suffering one of the many consequences of drinking, they may get to the point where reaching that potential God gave them is severely hampered.
I am sure if you thought about it long enough, you can think of other negative consequences alcohol can cause. Teach your children that just because something is permitted, does not mean it is necessarily the wisest choice (I Corinthians 10:23). As for the timing, sadly many kids begin drinking in late elementary school. If you wait until your kids are in high school to have these discussions, it may be a little too late. Remember, these points aren’t necessarily a sermon, but you want to make sure your kids have all of the facts before they listen to their friends about drinking. Let’s work together to raise a generation of kids who learn to make wise, godly choices about debatable matters!