In Virginia, it can be legal for parents to serve their under-21 children with alcohol at home. Thus, some teens enjoy a can of beer with their parents while playing pool or partake in a glass of wine at the dinner table.

While this approach can help teens learn to drink responsibly, there is one thing to keep in mind if you do this with your children or are considering it: Don’t let them get behind the wheel afterward.

Tolerance is a fickle thing

It may seem like a no-brainer to say this but teens do not have the same alcohol tolerance that adults do. This isn’t just because they don’t have the long history of being able to enjoy alcoholic beverages whenever they want. In fact, alcohol tolerance is actually fairly complex.

As a 2011 ABC News story explains, there are several characteristics that contribute to our tolerance to alcohol, and they include:

  • Size (specifically body mass)
  • Ethnic background
  • Food intake
  • Consumption over time
  • Age
  • Gender

In the case of teens and young adults, Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, puts it best, “When you’re naive to alcohol, a little goes a very long way.”

Preventing accidents starts with parents

While allowing your child to drink at home, in a controlled environment, may not create a dangerous situation, parents who are not aware of their child’s level of intoxication may mistakenly allow their intoxicated teen get behind the wheel and dive. It goes without saying that at any age, drinking and driving is always a recipe for disaster.

To put this into perspective, consider the following statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: In the United States, approximately 28 people die every day in motor vehicle collisions caused by a drunk driver.

Parents need to keep in mind that while they may be experienced with alcohol and know their limits, their teen is not. Letting a teen driver get behind the wheel while intoxicated may not just affect his or her life, it could affect the life of an innocent bystander too.