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Should you lock alcohol away from teens?

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

The locked liquor cabinet

Lead by example all you want, but teens and alcohol present a challenge. Teen drinking and alcoholism are issues nationwide, and teens continue to be an inquisitive, impulsive and daring lot. It might be time, for everyone’s safety, to lock the liquor cabinet -- or remove alcohol from your home entirely.

Teen drinking

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use was the third leading preventable cause of death in the US between 2001 and 2005. Those statistics include teenagers. Where are teens getting their alcohol? Sometimes at home.

The return of cocktail culture

Cocktail culture has made a comeback. Even parents who used to just have the occasional beer or glass of wine are starting to experiment with Sidecars and Dirty Martinis. Consider how appealing cocktail culture is to you -- it seems so cool!

It's plenty appealing to your teenager, too. It's marketed that way. Alcohol manufacturers see your kids as future consumers and they want this culture to have teen appeal. This means that your liquor cabinet not only has more in it, it's even more enticing to your child. Yes, it is.

But my child would never…

Whether you think your child would hit the liquor cabinet when you are away -- and whether they really would -- why take the chance? And even if you trust your child, consider his friends. Are you absolutely sure you can trust them?

It's true that your child may not be at all interested now, that you truly can trust him…now. But is that ever going to change? Are you sure? Wouldn't it be better to take steps now than to learn the hard way (and hopefully with benign results) that something has changed? Also, with liability laws, if a neighbor's child gets into your unsecured wine cellar -- even if you could trust your child -- you may be liable if there's an accident of some kind.

Lock it up

This isn't a "trust your child" issue. It's a safety issue for you, your child and those around you. Lock up the liquor cabinet. And make sure it's truly secure. You are removing the enticement, even if you're not completely eliminating the risk. Take as many variables out of the situation as possible.

Oh, and take the key with you.

Buy just what you need

Alternatively, if you don't want to take the effort to lock a cabinet, consider taking all alcohol out of the house. If you want a glass of wine with dinner, buy only what you will consume that day. Sure, this means that you can't shop bargain month at the local wine store, but wouldn't the peace of mind be better than discovering your bargain 94 point zinfandel has been consumed by an underage -- and unappreciative! -- person? And all the bigger issues that implied?

We all like to think our kids won't "go there," and maybe they won't. But why take the risk? Lock it up instead.

Concerned about your teen and alcohol?

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