We don't tend to drink much alcohol in our household; I occasionally drink a beer in the evening after the children are in bed or when my wife and I have a date night. So my preteen son doesn't have a ton of exposure to adult beverages besides the commercials on TV sporting events. My goal is to help my children form moderate attitudes toward drinking. To me, that means:

  • Having a healthy respect for the potent dangers of drinking—especially before reaching physical and mental maturity.
  • Having a non-judgmental attitude toward people who drink.

Judging from my own childhood, threading the needle between these two points of view is tricky. If you have managed to accomplish that feat, what did you do?

  • 1
    lots of advice about the talking in the answers to parenting.stackexchange.com/q/4980/3934
    – Chrys
    Mar 29, 2014 at 1:11
  • Seems like the same discussion could come up with alcohol, sex, or driving. The consequences of some activities are great enough that we require an older, more mature judgement before we allow anyone to participate.
    – Marc
    Jul 30, 2014 at 15:11
  • Not an explanation, but might work. I remember myself when I was around 8 or 9, Coca Cola was new in Hungary and I found a bottle, drank it, but it was some red wine, the taste was so bad at that time I didn't drink until 22 or 23. Jul 30, 2014 at 21:35

3 Answers 3


I wouldn't worry about it until it comes up. Lots of people, especially people who don't drink or who don't drink much, feel they have to 'normalize' alcohol to their children. But many, many people don't drink. Although some aspects of adult society make us think we have to justify the decision not to drink. in fact there is no justification needed for not doing something, only for doing something.

It is perfectly fine for your child to grow up assuming that not drinking is a norm, just the same as vegetarian children don't need to be 'exposed' to meat. I guarantee that before your child is of an age to drink, they will have witnessed at least one occasion of adults drinking in a 'normal', social way, and at least one occasion of dangerous, reckless or irresponsible drinking. When these happen, they will ask you, and you can tell them about alcohol.

  • What about the drinking habits of their peers? Perhaps this doesn't occur much in pre-teens, but it is not unheard of in teens. Mar 31, 2014 at 16:06
  • I don't understand the question. When the child is old enough to be aware of their peers drinking, the topic will come up in one of the two contexts I described. Probably it will have come up before then.
    – jwg
    Mar 31, 2014 at 16:11
  • My point is more that adult society is probably not always what establishes the norms about drinking, it will often be the peers. Mar 31, 2014 at 16:14
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    As a child, I remember seeing my parents drinking on rare occasions, which sparked my interest in "what are you drinking?". My father let me have a sip of beer (which I didn't like) and when my parents had wine they'd let me have a sip or two. Beyond that and just them answering questions when asked, they didn't really do much. They treated it as a nonissue for the most part but did warn against the problems of abusing alcohol. Living in Europe (where drinking amongst minors is fairly common) I never had an issue with the "established norms" being destructive to my growth/understanding.
    – Doc
    Apr 4, 2014 at 18:25

This is a good question. Well, what I think is you should present 'drink' as a 'drink' and not addiction. A thick line should be drawn between what is drinking as a custom/fun and drinking as a habit. The difference between 'drinking' and 'binge drinking'

You may show both the sides of drinking - drinking as a custom that brings people together in any celebration or parties and binge drinking that makes a person toper resulting into weird behavior, isolation and top of all deadly health issues those are irreversible.

The only key making the preteen understand this is the difference between drinking as a part of culture/ritual/custom and drinking as a habit as a result of craving. Having this conveyed, he'll understand the nuance which actually makes a big difference in one's life.


personally. I would be upfront and honest, too much alcohol is bad. Occasionally it's good for adults to drink. My daughter and I also share a love for the Historic aspects of why something was invented and why something is important.

I haven't spoke to her about alcohol yet, but i will be sure to mention that it was created 1000's of years ago, and it is seemingly the most important human invention ... (Article 2) ... (article 3) (as long as it's not overdone).

My wife nor i drink alcohol much either ~ but it is something i don't want to demonize, i don't want her to think it's something worse than it is, and i don't want her to think it's something spectacular.

When in doubt; go with the truth.

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