Curiosity is arguably one of the best traits of a young child. They are interested in the world around them and are discovering things for the first time. So, when a parent is having a glass of wine and the child wants a sip, some parents do not see the harm in letting them have a taste. Parents want to be there when they experience alcohol for the first time and explain to them that it is a “grown up” drink, and the taste of alcohol is usually an acquired taste so having a child taste something that is bad to them may prevent them from drinking when they are in high school – at least that is the train of thought for some parents.
However, a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, revealed that children who sipped alcohol before the sixth grade were five times more likely to drink a full alcoholic beverage by the time they get in high school. The study also showed that these children were four times more likely to binge drink, or drink with the intention of getting drunk. And while the researchers do not want parents to feel that they have made in irreversible mistake, they do want the information out there so parents can better educate children.
“I would say that it is advisable not to offer your child a sip of your beverage, as it may send the wrong message – younger teens and tweens may be unable to understand the difference between drinking a sip and drinking one or more drinks,” explained Kristina Jackson, one of the co-authors of the study.
Researchers were able to come to this conclusion after interviewing 561 middle schoolers in Rhode Island over a three-year period. About 1/3 of these students said they had tried alcohol before entering middle school. Most of these children said they received the alcohol from their parents.
Instead of allowing small children to sip alcohol, it is best for parents to explain what alcohol is and to refrain from allowing them to taste the beverage. While there are many types of influencers in a child’s life that may cause them to drink, early exposure does not have to be one of those reasons.