For some teens, the most exciting things they learn in the Bible are that Jesus turned water into wine and the Bible calls drunkenness a sin – not drinking. What your teen may not realize is that just because something is permitted, doesn’t mean it is wise to do it. (I Corinthians 10:23 and 6:12) In fact, many Christians have decided to avoid all alcohol for a variety of very valid reasons.
The problem is parents rarely share those reasons with their kids. In fact, some parents are still experiencing “Iwannabepopular” syndrome and may have not resolved their own issues with alcohol. It’s difficult to help someone navigate an issue with which you are still struggling.
For topics like alcohol, most teens need real, honest discussion beyond the “It’s a sin. You could go to Hell. End of discussion.” lecture common when I was younger (FYI – not from my parents.). It’s not that drunkenness isn’t a sin. Or that your kids shouldn’t make obeying God their top priority. It’s just that they are still spiritually immature and may need additional information and/or motivation before making a wise spiritual choice.
So what bits of information does your child need to know about drinking, drunkenness and God? There are a lot of things you can share, but here are a few that seem to resonate with teens.
- It is illegal in the United States to drink alcohol until you are 21. The Bible is extremely clear on this topic. We are to obey all laws unless they go against God’s Laws. Since God does not command us to drink alcohol, it’s not okay to drink alcohol at all until after age 21. (Warning: If you have teens pushing the issue, the legal age is often younger if you travel to other countries. They will be sure to inform you of the looser standards.)
- Family history of alcoholism. The tendency to be an addict is thought to be hereditary. If you have alcoholics or other types of addicts in your family, your child may have inherited that gene. Ask almost any addict and they will tell you they were gone at the first sip. If you have an adopted child born with fetal alcohol syndrome, they were born addicted and went through withdrawal at birth. Those children should avoid all alcohol at all costs. Share family stories of the negative consequences your addicted relatives and their families experienced. Your kids need to understand that could be their future, too. (Reminder: Just because you have no addicts in your family history does not mean your children are immune from becoming addicts. Studies have shown there are millions of “functional” alcoholics in our society.)
- What is drunkenness to God? The Bible doesn’t give us a blood alcohol level that is unacceptable to God. It is interesting that often those in the Bible dedicating their lives to God in some way usually avoided drinking any alcohol – even in a society where drinking water was unsafe. Some occupations have a zero tolerance for any alcohol in the blood stream, because even the tiniest bit can impair judgment, coordination and more. When do we cross the line from drinking to sinning (drunk) in God’s eyes? Is it after the first drink? When we get a little tipsy? When we are legally drunk (which varies from place to place)? When we black out and can’t remember anything? Is it worth being wrong and thinking you are right?
- Bad things can happen when you are impaired by even a little alcohol. People have driven after what they thought were “only” two drinks – caused a wreck and killed someone while destroying their own future as well. Sin is also easier to agree to because your inhibitions are lowered. Sadness or loneliness can become depression when drinking alcohol – a well known depressant. It’s also bad for sleeping well and women who drink regularly are more likely to get breast cancer. Not to mention hardly anyone actually has a “better” personality after drinking. In fact, most become annoying or do things which they find mortifying once the alcohol leaves their system. Make sure your kids are aware of the possible negative consequences from drinking.
- Alcohol is not the best coping strategy. High school and college students often encourage each other to use alcohol to help lessen stress, forget problems or cope with other negative emotions and situations. Your kids need to understand that even if they were actually able to “forget” their troubles for a short amount of time (which is highly unlikely without the sin of drunkenness and is doubtful even then), it’s not a great habit to use to cope and can create more problems – not solve the original one. Teach your kids lots of healthier ways to let go of their negative emotions and stress.
- Acknowledge their options in the future. The reality is that once your children are 21, they can drink if they choose. They might decide one drink with a meal isn’t upsetting to God or sinful. You can’t control your adult children. Acknowledging they will soon have those freedoms, but that you want them to make wise, godly, informed decisions is key. They will be much more likely to listen and heed your advice than if you act as if you will try to control their behavior well into adulthood. This can create a rebellious attitude and children who will drink – not because they want to drink- but to “prove” they are in control of their own life.
It is vital to have discussions about issues like drinking, well before your children reach the age when their peers will start drinking. Help them develop strategies for avoiding temptation. It can save both you and your children a lot of heartbreak in the future.