Ask Amy: Parents normalize teen’s drinking at home

Dear Amy: My daughter and son-in-law allow their 17-year-old son to drink alcohol in their home — and not just a sip of wine.

They believe that he will become normalized to drinking and not consider it “forbidden fruit” when he goes away to college.

Since there is a history of alcoholism in our family, I’m not convinced this is wise.

Am I wrong?

— Concerned Grandma

Dear Grandma: I’m wondering why any parent would want their teen to become normalized to drinking.

Surely these parents don’t imagine that their son will enter the binge-drinking atmosphere of the typical college campus limiting his own excess due to the sophistication he’s acquired by being a social drinker at home.

(“Sorry, Delta Tau Chi brothers, I’ll pass on that kegger as I slowly sip my fine Merlot.”)

If these parents drink at home with their son, that’s their business. But if they think doing this will make him less vulnerable to problems with alcohol outside the home, they’re mistaken.

There are very few campuses where alcohol is considered “forbidden fruit.” Alcohol use is ritualized and used as a way to integrate into campus life.

These parents are just giving their son a head start.

If you have alcoholism in the family, you (and his parents) should warn, educate, and urge this boy to be aware that alcohol use disorder runs in the family and that he is vulnerable.

A couple of statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ( to put in his path: An estimated 1,519 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car crashes. 696,000 students in this age group are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

Thirteen percent of students will graduate from college with full-blown Alcohol Use Disorder.

Yes, your grandson will drink. Most college students do. But he should be made aware of the family history and negative consequences.

Dear Amy: My son and his wife have a young child.

All grandparents live in their town, although the maternal set of grandparents have several vacation homes they maintain.

My husband and I tend to be more helpful with babysitting, taking our grandchild on outings, etc.

Our son and his wife are both professionals, and we do everything we can to help.

The problem arises when it comes to holidays and family gatherings.

We are expected to host and invite the other set of grandparents to everything, which is fine, but we are never included in their plans, and it’s only getting weirder.

I am of the opinion we should just do our own thing and let them gather without us — my husband thinks we should have a big “talk.”

We’ve talked to our son and while he sees our point, he is concerned that his wife and family will be very insulted if we raise this and it will cause more problems.

I don’t want to put him in the middle, but this is a very intense, dramatic family — what do you think?

— Divided

Dear Divided: You and your husband should take a step back, decide what you want to do and don’t want to do regarding involvement with your son’s family and in-laws, and then do exactly that.

So yes, I’m with you that you should “do your own thing.”

You seem to be fine with the occasional burden of hosting the entire clan. So keep doing that. When you’re tired of this sort of hosting, you should stop.

If I were you, I’d just as soon skip additional involvement and exposure to the intensity and drama of the in-laws and whatever weirdness seems to be evolving.

Family relationships within a clan rarely work out to be completely balanced. A cordial and occasional relationship with these in-laws might be best for everyone.

Dear Amy: I disagree with your response to “Bugged in a Small Town,” who has a problem with a woman referring to her by a longer version of her given name.

I have the same problem, in reverse.

My given name (which I use) is a long one and when I introduce myself to people, they almost always shorten it immediately.

I find this incredibly rude. It’s no different than if someone were to tell you their name is John and you insist on calling them Fred.

People have the right to be referred to by the name they prefer, whether it is their given name or a nickname.

— My Name is not Fred

Dear Not Fred: I agree!

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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