Teens and Purim Drinking

Purim is just over two weeks away and while the kids are all busy planning costumes and mishloach manot themes, the issue of alcohol consumption must be addressed with the older ones. My two oldest boys are 14 and 13 and are already talking about the Purim parties they are going to go to at the houses of their Rebbeim (rabbis). Lenny (the 14 year old) says that there will be alcohol of all types out on the table and no one is policing what the bochurim (young men) drink. Up until recently Lenny was not interested in alcohol, the wine he drank on Shabbat made his head hurt – and I was quite happy not to have to think about him drinking. Recently he has started asking for a sip of my beer “just to taste”. However, most of his friends will be drinking on Purim, and I am sure he won’t want to be left out.

Our house is in no way an alcohol free zone. The kids know I drink beer occasionally, and on Shabbat I will have a scotch with the meal. There is no over-indulging. One beer or one scotch and I am done. If we drink wine, I may let them have a little, especially of the Muscato as they call that the ginger ale wine and I don’t see the harm in a few small sips. But they see at home that there is no line crossed. They see moderation, and self control.

If I ban the teens from having any alcohol on Purim it will have the opposite effect. I have had friends who have had to pick up their kids from a neighbour’s yard, where they collapsed paralytically drunk. Even worse, alcohol poisoning is a very real threat, especially if their consumption isn’t monitored.

Parents of older kids – how do you deal with this? Is allowing the boys to have even one drink going off the deep end? Can you trust a teen to stop at one? Do I close my eyes and let boys be boys one day of the year? (Not going to happen, not with me as a mom). When the kids are at our table for seudah, or at their Dad’s, we can limit their intake. Let them go to the Purim parties – what can we do? I don’t want to be a party pooper and not let them go. It is Purim after all!!

I do plan on talking to my kids, thankfully we have an awesome relationship that we can talk about everything, but I am wondering what message they will hear. All advice welcome.

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36 Comments

  1. shorty says:

    having worked in the addiction area for a short while anyway, i have to admit i am against under age drinking. A few sips of wine with parental supervision is ok though.

    Teenagers are not old enough to understand certain decisions as much as they like to think they do. A lot of studies have shown that underage drinking can lead addictions whether alcohol or drugs in the adult years.

    I admit, i am not a parent. But i think a speech on trust and responsibility might be appropriate. If a teen wants to be treated with respect, they need to act with responsibility.

    I wouldn’t scare them with stories of alcohol poisoning, but let them know there are risks with over drinking and at the same time, you will not be disappointed with them or love them any less if they do show up drunk at home.

    if you google “talk to your teen about alcohol” there are many resource and you can pick and choose what you feel comfortable with.

  2. Lady Lock and Load says:

    May I add that the teens and KIDS drink and SMOKE on purim. I have seen kids as young as seven strutting around with cigarettes in their mouths. When I asked their parents about their smoking youngin’s they say “But it’s purim!”
    Reminds me of what my daughter wrote on her blog one year.

    “Purim Is Scary”

    When I was a kid, Halloween was a night we dreaded. We stayed in and kept the lights off to avoid any prospective trick-or-treaters. And we saw the results of the festivities the next morning: egged cars, shaving cream and toilet paper. And perhaps some candy wrappers.

    In contrast, Purim was fun. We got dressed up in costumes and drove around town delivering baskets full of treats to all our friends. A task that would have normally been pretty fast took hours because of the sheer chaos on the roads. Drivers stopped their cars in middle of the road to shmooze, oblivious of the honking behind them. Drunk yeshiva bachurim swerved, narrowly missing pedestrians and other drivers. Hyper kids overloaded on sugar were everywhere. As I look back, all that fun might not have been such a good thing.

    When you really sit down and think about it, Purim is an insane holiday. People are actually encouraged to get drunk. Just in case someone might think that the mitzva is to drink but not to excess, it says specifically to drink until you don’t know the difference between Mordechai and Haman. That, my friends, means drinking to excess. And it says nothing about refraining from driving while doing said drinking. Okay, operating a horse and wagon – they wouldn’t have known about cars when this stuff was written.

    I wisely stayed off the roads today. I have had enough of the chaos. The clogged roads, the honking horns, the decorations that regularly fall off moving cars. It’s pretty scary actually.

  3. Lady Lock and Load says:

    another idea….there are many organizations that go around collecting money. For example, Chai Lifeline. They are all looking for boys to go collecting with them. Some dress up, they sing and dance. Maybe you could suggest a supervised group to your son, I know he was very successful at collecting money for our shul’s building fund! Purim should not just be about getting drunk, it should be about friendships, chessed, and tzaddaka!

  4. I’m not the parents of an older kid, but I’m a bit closer to being that older kid who was out drinking behind my parents back when I was a teenager (by the way, as a teenager I was frequently offered alcohol FROM rabbis on purim, and always took them up on it).

    First of all, if they want to drink, they will find a way to drink, and there’s not much you can say to stop that. What I would do is emphasize that even though you officially don’t approve of them drinking, they can ALWAYS call you if they feel uncomfortable or need a ride home or start feeling sick and that you will happily pick them up and not be mad at them.

    You might also want to explain how easy it is to go from feeling kinda loopy and fun to throwing up and being really sick, explain that there is alcohol poisoning but don’t try to say that you can get it after like 2-3 drinks cause they will see right through that, maybe talk about the importance of not having a bunch of drinks at once, and drinking a cup of water or soda between each alcoholic drink (you can tell them it keeps you from getting a hangover- which is true- but it also keeps them from getting AS drunk cause there’s only so many drinks you can drink at once), and tell that if they call you because they are drunk/sick/need a ride home they won’t get punished for it. Basically teach them how to be a responsible drinker.

    I think emphasizing that you are a safe person they can call in case things go wrong and that you won’t punish them but will only try to help them is really important, because if they are afraid of getting punished they are much less likely to call if things start to go wrong. Besides, just drinking and the lovely way it makes you feel afterwards will probably be punishment enough. ;)

  5. Mark says:

    I think France and Italy have the right idea on responsible teen drinking. They serve wine with meals and allow the kids to have a little, the teens to have a little more, and the adults to have a bit more than that. Almost everyone there learns responsible drinking from a pretty young age.

  6. shorty says:

    as an aside…kids with good relationships with the folks are also less likely to drink to excess or develop problems. makes sense no?

  7. tesyaa says:

    The kids don’t want to drink because of the feeling of getting drunk or tipsy – they want to do it because adults do it and this is their opportunity. I’m not in favor. I tell my kids from when they’re very little about the downsides of alcohol. But then again, I follow no crowd.

  8. Lion of Zion says:

    i don’t drink in general and i don’t understand this whole fascination with getting drunk on purim in particular. i also don’t have older kids so i have no practical advice for you.

    but i think it would be extremely disconcerting to me if my 13(?!)- and 14-year-old sons’ rebbeim condoned drinking and moreover provided the venue and the booze. and according to your own admission (from information provided by your son), “no one is policing what the bochurim (young men) drink.” so the rebbe gives out the booze and then doesn’t even have the sensibility to monitor it and ensure responsible drinking? you trust someone like that with your 13/14-year-olds?

    and if the rebbeim think it is so important for kids to drink, fine. but does the school at least follow up on the other side of the equation and provide programming to combat alchoholism or drunk driving? (or counseling for alchoholics?)

    also, maybe there are reasons to let them drink, but it shouldn’t be because “most of his friends will be drinking on Purim, and I am sure he won’t want to be left out” (i.e., peer pressure?)

    best of luck.
    (and i will come back in ten years for your advice on these issues when my kids comes of !)age

  9. Lion of Zion says:

    the more i think about it the more it really bothers me that this is a rebbe-sponsored activity.

    i have a list of questions i think are important to ask prospective schools before enrolling my kids.

    • Mark says:

      LOZ, your list is excellent (I’ve seen the rest of it on your blog), but always be aware that they will lie to you. Sometimes they will lie out of malevolence, but usually just out of their own wishful thinking.

      • Lion of Zion says:

        hi mark,

        i messed up with the comment, but i’m glad you understood what i meant that this is another question to add to my list.

        as far the school being honest, that is a problem with any of the questions.

        and i’m sure there are schools that really don’t think there is anything wrong with a rebbe serving a 13-year-old student alchohol, so they wouldn’t even think to lie about it.

        • HSaboMilner says:

          and i’m sure there are schools that really don’t think there is anything wrong with a rebbe serving a 13-year-old student alchohol, so they wouldn’t even think to lie about it.

          SOP round here unfortunately, am hoping it will be different when we move.

  10. Ari says:

    AE got it right. My oldest is deathly scared of throwing up, so it will be enough to tell him that he takes that risk if he drinks :>)

    Hadassah, I think you have it right too — modeling moderation and self control. Banning it only adds to its allure.

    Adults other than parents should NOT be serving alcohol to children who aren’t their own for a lot of reasons — legal, ethical etc.

    However, parents, within the privacy and safety of their own homes, and who know their children best, should feel ok about giving their child a taste or two so they know it’s not such a big deal. Take away that illicit thrill, but make it clear that there are limits, as with a lot of things in life.

    And here’s where I’ll trot out my recollection of a boy in a class above me who, tragically, lost his life because he was driving drunk collecting money for some charithy. His out-of-state parents weren’t there to reign him in. Wisely, the yeshiva high school I attended sent kids home on subsequent Purims.

  11. Big Boy says:

    One of my sons once ended in the hospital with alchohol poisoning on Purim, egged on by a potential donor who gave him some strong wine rather than low-alchohol stuff. It wasn’t pretty.

    What we do is we don’t dring until 10 – 15 minutes before Shkioh (sunset), why waste Purim on being drunk. That is when we wash for the Purim Seudah. All we allow on the Purim table is wine, because that is what is written in the Kizzur. Then we (myself & my sons) drink, drink & drink some more – enough to make up for the rest of the day.

    Thus we have fulfilled the Mitzvah of drinking on Purim, with the children under parental supervision!

  12. tikunolam says:

    All I was going to say, AE already said better.

  13. Rainy says:

    The rabbi at the MO shul I go to sometimes wrote a really good blog post about drinking in the Orthodox world, and how it seems to be getting younger and younger:
    http://morethodoxy.org/2009/09/09/orthodox-male-and-drunk/

    Folks may agree or disagree, there is some argument in the comments, but I found it interesting as I’d never even considered the idea of very religious people getting drunk! I don’t know why, obviously that’s silly. Anyway, I thought what he had to say was interesting, though he does note in comments that he’s not specifically talking about Purim, just the overall issue in the community.

    At my house, my oldest daughter who is 19 is allowed to decide to have a glass of wine with her meal, even though the legal age of consumption is 21. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. Same for me. My youngest, 15, still has to ask for a taste. Nobody in the house ever gets actually inebriated, though. Not on holidays, not ever. I think we’re a lot like you in that one beer/one scotch way!

  14. NO QUESTION – call the rav and tell him that you and many others are very concerned that he and the staff allow kids to have a drink or two or three or fourty. be nice but be strong. put the full responsiblity of the health and safety of your children on their shoulders. period.

    rav karo in the shulchan aruch makes it clear and you can even throw in “hishamer lecha ushmor nafshecha meod” (dvarim 4:6).

    it is a shanda, not to mention illegal, immoral and unethical.

    maybe i wasn’t clear: TALK TO THE RAV AND MAKE IT CLEAR TO HIM.

  15. Lady Lock and Load says:

    just saw on VIN that Project Yes is hosting a teleconference about drinking on Purim, perhaps you and your son could listen to this, it’s from ten to eleven tonight, phone number is in this article http://www.vosizneias.com/49073
    Just don’t drink while you are listening….;)

  16. Elise says:

    Technically after 13 our children are adults when being responsible for their sins, but their body chemistry is not adult and should not be treated as a full grown developed adult.
    A few sips of wine on shabbat and pesach is sufficient. I personally find the entire excuse for drunkeness a truely poor parental lesson.
    My rule for drinking a full glass of wine…if you are old enough to go to war, carry a gun and kill or be killed you can have a glass of wine. To allow drunkeness is to miss a parental opportunity to teach moderation in all things.
    Oh a just as an aside, in the US if you give alcohol or allow alcohol to be given in your home to any underage minor other than your children even during a religous holiday it is illegal. Jut saying…

  17. Lady Lock and Load says:

    Lion of Zion, I had a neighbor across the street, he was a tenth grade Rebbe and had the boys over for purim seudah. He told us that the boys are not allowed to pour their own drinks, he is the only one that pours.
    Yes, it would be nice if all the teachers would listen to this teleconference but we have no control over that. But Hadassah can listen to it or she can tell her son about it.

    • Lion of Zion says:

      “it would be nice if all the teachers would listen to this teleconference but we have no control over that. ”

      i wouldn’t be concerned about “all” of them. just the misguided ones who think they’re being mechanech their talmidim by serving them alchohol.

      “he is the only one that pours”

      how enlightened

  18. j. mand says:

    How come those moron rabbis serve drinks to their underage students? Don’t they have an ounce of responsibility?

  19. Lady Lock and Load says:

    They are going to drink anyway, better it be supervised.

  20. Lady Lock and Load says:

    No, because sex is ossur if you aren’t married. Teens must be taught to obstain from that. Drinking is not ossur but we teach our kids that a little is okay. I remember when my daughter went to community college and she was surprised because the kids were talking about drinking and my daughter was saying what is the big deal, I drink wine every friday night and shabbos day. If we teach our kids to drink responsibly then we have done our job as parents.

  21. Heather says:

    Hi Hadassah (and your blogging readers….)—- would you like to play in a Jewish blog hop? see my latest post on http://freeskincarehelp.com

  22. sharona says:

    I agree with Lady, we should teach kids to drink responsibly and explain the consequences of not doing so

  23. Lady Lock and Load says:

    Yes, and if we don’t teach them they will learn the hard way after they vomit their way home.

  24. Our kids are all grown up, so I’m not current as a parent.

    But, I say tell your kids exactly where you stand and what you want of them. Don’t blur the message.

    As for the heart of the matter, my position is that absolutely no one other than parents has any business whatsoever serving alcohol to minors. Not on Purim, not on Shabbat, not at anytime.

    I am not a tee-totaler. My own father on rare occasions allowed me a taste, a sip under his supervision. As a teen I broke that mold for a while, but the his message remained in the back of my head until I grew up and got responsible. At least the lesson was always clear.

    In my home and in the beit midrash I stick to this. For one thing, it is the law. For another, enough poskim write adamantly about avoiding the desecration that comes from uncontrolled drunkenness on Purim. Why come close to that? There’s a good reason that the OU, and Rav Twerski, and others have been campaigning to de-emphasize alcohol.

    We had some young hevra from YU out here to help out the community during the holydays. When we were serving l’chaims at the table, I prefaced that I don’t knowingly serve someone under age. One of the young men was mentsch enough to pass when offered a drink, since he wasn’t yet old enough. That’s how we should be teaching our kids.

    Sorry, you can see I feel strongly about this. I am still traumatized by the time that a local chassid said to me he couldn’t believe that I had such simcha on Simchat Torah without drinking. How absolutely sad.

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