I bought my underage teen alcohol - would you?

ON SATURDAY afternoon I dropped my 16-year-old daughter at a party with a four pack of cruisers ... that I suspect I'd broken the law in buying.

It is not something I am proud of, nor is it something I do every weekend. But it is part of my bigger plan to teach her to drink smart.

Before I explain myself and you pass judgment, here's a question for all parents ... how old were your teenagers when they had their first alcoholic drink?

In an ideal world my teens would have been happy sitting at home watching funniest home videos with the olds but, as that is not the case, I have chosen to walk a tightrope between trust and deceit.

I think it is my job to teach my kids to drink smart just like it has been my job to teach them everything else about becoming a decent human being. I also don't think it is reasonable to expect they won't touch a drop of alcohol until the day they turn 18.

But teaching teens to drink is not about buying them a carton and sending them off into the midst of an out-of-control Saturday night party scene. I am in no way condoning the parties that end in destructive and outrageous behaviour.

There's no denying that alcohol is a dark and ugly part of the Aussie culture and I want my kids to know how to handle the "demon" drink and the equally devilish attitudes to alcohol sooner rather than later.

So along with supplying my kids with a small amount of alcohol, I talk to them about tips and tricks they can use to deflect attention from what and how much they are drinking.

Since they were  10 I have talked about alcohol and why people use and abuse it.

I also avoided talking about alcohol as a cure for my stress or a reward at the end of each day. In fact they rarely see me drink and have probably seen me over the limit once in their lives. Never have they seen me "off my face".

All this lead-up talk is a far cry from my parents' discussions with me.

My parents' idea of alcohol education was to say on the way to a party that if anyone there was smoking or drinking I was to ring and they would pick me up immediately. Yeah right, like that was going to happen.

As a result I would drink whatever was offered to me, a much more dangerous situation than taking my own in my opinion.

So when my kids started going to the occasional party around the age of 16 we also had "the conversation" but the script was very different. I told them that I would give them a small amount of alcohol and would do so again on the proviso that  they didn't drink anything else.

I warned them about mixing drinks and how vulnerable they would be if they drank more than what I had given them.

I also made sure I picked them up from the party - so I could judge how affected they were and also so I could go to sleep knowing they were safe.

My son is not a keen drinker even now at nearly 19, so I've told him that if his mates see him mix his own drink early in the night he can just drink coke for the rest of the night without them giving him a hard time.

Again in an ideal world this ploy would be unnecessary but this avoids the risk of them spiking his drink to make sure he "has a good time". He has also learnt to put his hand up to be the designated driver but that raises a whole new host of concerns for me.

My best tip for avoiding the teenage drinking pressures was one I discovered by accident. If they have hobbies they are really passionate about, or have a part-time job, they are less likely to party as hard or as often.

My son much preferred getting up at 4am to go trail bike riding with his dad than to have a big night with the boys.

My youngest is keen to buy a car, so she would rather work than party every weekend.

Even though I think I am doing the right thing in trying to shape their drinking habits rather than leaving it to their peers, I do acknowledge that I am breaking the law and by my actions helping them break the law.

We all approach these parenting issues differently so I'm keen to hear how you handle the issue of teen drinking in your house?

* Life with teenagers can be like an out-of-control rollercoaster ride and when there's no one else to turn to for support or a second opinion, I go undercover to blog about the everyday dramas of raising my otherwise perfect teens.

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