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Ask Amy: Grandma worries about parents allowing teen to drink 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 will not consider it “forbidden fruit” when he goes away to college. Because there is a history of alcoholism in our family, I am not convinced that this is wise. Am I wrong?

Grandma: I am wondering why any parent would want their teen to become normalized to drinking. Surely these parents do not imagine their son will enter the binge-drinking atmosphere of the typical college campus limiting his own excess due to the sophistication he has 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 is their business. But if they think doing this will make him less vulnerable to problems with alcohol outside the home, they are 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 of alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car crashes.

Some 696,000 students in this age group are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. 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 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 is only getting weirder. I am of the opinion we should do our own thing and let them gather without us. My husband thinks we should have a big “talk.” We talked to our son, and although he sees our point, he is concerned that his wife and family will be very insulted if we raise this and that 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: 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, then do exactly that. So, yes, I am 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 are tired of this sort of hosting, you should stop.

If I were you, I would 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. An occasional and cordial 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 is 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.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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