In South Carolina, juveniles can legally consume alcohol in their parents’ home

Few of the family law attorneys I know are aware of S.C. Code Ann. § 63-19-2460, which states:

No provision of law prohibiting the use or possession of beer, wine, or alcoholic beverages by minors shall apply to any minor in the home of his parents or guardian or to any such beverage used for religious ceremonies or purposes so long as such beverage was legally purchased.

Given how few family law attorneys are aware of this statute, I imagine very few South Carolina parents are aware of it.  Yet there it is: South Carolina law explicitly authorizes parents to allow their children to consume alcohol within their home.

It’s ridiculous how this culture teaches children about alcohol.  Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker piece on “Drinking Games: The sociology of drinking” notes that many of the problems our culture encounters regarding drinking, especially among our young adults, are based on expectations that teenagers’ first experiences with alcohol will be through binge drinking by and with their peer.  How much more sensible is the culture of much of the rest of the world, in which children first learn to drink while with their parents and first experience alcohol in a moderate, responsible manner?  As  Gladwell concludes:

There is something about the cultural dimension of social problems that eludes us.   When confronted with the rowdy youth in the bar we are happy to raise his drinking age, to tax his beer, to punish him if he drives under the influence, and to push him into treatment if his habit becomes an addiction.   But we are reluctant to provide him with a positive and constructive example of how to drink. The consequences of that failure are considerable, because, in the end, culture is a more powerful tool in dealing with drinking than medicine, economics, or the law….Nowhere in the multitude of messages and signals sent by popular culture and social institutions about drinking is there any consensus about what drinking is supposed to mean.

South Carolina law explicitly authorizes parents to expose their children to alcohol in a responsible and moderate manner.  Rather than pretending our children won’t consume alcohol until age 21, while hoping they avoid the binge drinking common among high school and college students, perhaps we should be teaching our children sensible drinking habits within our homes.

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