Drinking: This is an odd one for me. The fact is, the first time I got drunk, I was fifteen. I'm in no position to warn anyone to "never touch it until they're over eighteen."
Not twenty-one. The American drinking age is a disgusting affront, and MADD lies to keep support for it at high levels, despite the damage it does and the unfairness of throwing an eighteen-year-old in jail as an adult, or sending them to fight for their country, but not letting them toast a beer to their country.
There's an ad-campaign here at the moment telling parents that "kids and alcohol don't mix." What they're actually saying is: don't drink when your kids are around.
This is a very piss poor ad-campaign and it needs to be revoked right now. It's the exact same issue as with sex and pornography.
Preaching abstinence, not being a responsible and relevant role-model, cutting your kids off from seeing or discussing what drinking/sex is like in the real world, as opposed to how unrealistic pornography, movies, MTV music videos, or irresponsible older kids/adults portray it... this doesn't work. It does a lot more damage than good.
The "relevant" role-model thing is important. The fact is, drinking is a part of Western culture, and not a pretty part. If you're a stalwart teetotaller, it's difficult for a youth to relate to you; they're not necessarily going to connect with your beliefs or be content to just copy you. They want to try alcohol, they WILL get their paws on it, and they're looking for a role-model that's relevant. They're not going to ask you, someone who treats alcohol like concentrated leprosy-juice, or someone who refuses to discuss it with them because "kids and alcohol don't mix" for advice or to be their role-model in this case.
It's better to openly show and discuss responsible drinking; and to accept that even if your teen gets totally blotto one night, pukes his lungs up and calls the cat "daddy", he'll probably not suffer any permanent damage. He definitely won't suffer from just a few beers with his dad on the couch watching the game together.
In fact, you know what the ultimate benefit of being open and tolerant about teen drinking is? When/IF they do decide to experiment, they aren't afraid about doing it where you'll be able to supervise and look after them. That's much better than these idiotic binge-drinking parties - which occur, by the way, because teens often haven't been shown by a respected, personal role-model that alcohol is not something to be binged on. It's no joke, I've been to several of these binge drinking fests: we drank it like cola. With my new experience, having been drinking since fifteen, I know not to drink it like cola. (Edit: and I now drink at home or at drinking establishments in the company of responsible people who don't let me get absolutely wasted! Whoops, kids can't do that!)
Don't be permissive and irresponsible, just be a strong, relevant role-model. Be the person your kids can talk to about this without fear of being scorned, lectured, yelled at or punished. There are plenty of celebrities and people out there that don't drink. Most of my role-models are straight-edge, believe it or not! They are doing their job, they are the influence on teens that tug them in the direction of sobriety; but do you want their counter-influence to be pulling them in the direction of drinking booze like cordial, or drinking responsibly?
Because of this taboo, because "kids and alcohol don't mix", teens often are stranded in the vast gulf between the responsible, good people telling them to "never, ever drink!" and those that don't care, or aren't actually producing entertainment for youths that watch it anyway, who laud idiotic alcohol abuse. They want to try it. Which end will they gravitate towards? Even the sensible kids who know to be responsible could do with being shown what it truly means to be responsible with alcohol - let's face it, when you first got blasted, it was because you didn't realize what that eighth shot would do to you, right? You didn't plan on the hangover. Hell, nobody even warned you about it, right?
Look, do you want to be your child's role-model when it comes to drinking? Do you want to educate them by showing them how to be responsible and careful with booze? To have a few beers while playing Playstation with friends instead of slamming tequila at "parties"?
Or do you wanna leave it up to 50 Cent?