This post is republished with kind permission from EMA Care. The post was written by Dr. Eliana M. Aaron and originally appeared on the EMA Care website:

The custom of drinking alcohol on Purim stems from a quotation in the Talmud attributed to a fourth-century rabbi, Rava: “One must drink on Purim until that person cannot distinguish between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai” (Megillah 7). This custom has become a green light for people, especially students in Israel, to drink lots of alcohol on Purim. Unfortunately, many gap year students drink until they are sick, passed out, or exhibiting dangerous or inappropriate behavior (such as vomiting in your rabbi’s yard). Although alcohol consumption in the US is illegal for people under the age of 21, in Israel, it is legal from age 18.

Purim in Israel falls over 2 days with people in Jerusalem celebrating Shushan Purim, the day after the rest of the country. Many gap year students celebrate BOTH Purim days, traveling in and out of Jerusalem… and binge drinking for 2 days! Unfortunately, every year there are alcohol-related injuries among gap year students, even resulting in alcohol toxicity (which can be fatal).

Parenting teenagers is never easy. Learning how to approach drinking on Purim with your gap year child is important for parents as it keeps communication open. Here are some tips for parents:

1. State clearly, “I want to speak to you about drinking on Purim.”

2. Keep in mind your child does not want you to invade his/her privacy and may think you won’t understand the atmosphere in Israel on Purim.

3. Teens have a fear of being “lectured” – keep it short and to the point.

4. Your response should include respect for your child’s privacy, understanding your child, wanting to help your child make good choices, and love and warmth toward your child.

5. Begin with an open-minded statement. “Purim is coming, and with drinking being legal in Israel, you may be looking forward to a fun holiday filled with lots of drinking.”

6. Listen closely to your child’s response. Do not criticize!

7. Speak honestly about your own experiences and opinions about alcohol. Again, keep it short. Include symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

a. vomiting

b. losing consciousness

c. uncoordinated movement

d. dehydration

8. Encourage spacing drinks – 1 drink per hour with a glass of water in between.

9. It would be great if everyone felt comfortable saying, “I don’t want to get drunk, so I’m not drinking a lot on Purim.” Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Ask your child if he/she is comfortable with that statement. Is your child feeling pressured to drink on Purim? Talk about other ways to say no:

a. I don’t feel good; I have a headache

b. I don’t want to be sick on Shabbat

c. I don’t want to be sick when I travel

d. Drinking makes me feel dizzy/ queasy – I wouldn’t say I like the feeling

Purim is a beautiful holiday with many fun activities, including the whole country dressing in costume, giving charity, exchanging food gifts, eating delicious meals, candy-binging (perhaps a different blog on that issue). Purim should not be marred by gap year students going overboard with alcohol consumptions to the point of illness. We encourage all parents to speak to their children about how to handle Purim and excessive drinking.