about the risks of sex,
alcohol and drugs, it’s
Kids will be safer when
parents give them the facts
Parents can feel queasy about talkingwith their children about sex, alcohol orcannabis. But these conversations canpositively influence a child’s choices andactions.
“A lot of anxiety comes from thinkingthat if we talk about it, it will encourageits use,” says Rebecca Haines-Saah.She holds a PhD in behavioural healthsciences and is an assistant professor atthe Department of Community HealthSciences at the University of Calgary’sCumming School of Medicine.
One key reason for talking to kids abouttopics such as cannabis, alcohol and sexis to give them reliable information, shesays. Research has found, for example,that many youths think cannabis isharmless. It’s not (see page 13).
Children also need to know thatcannabis use is only legal for adults andwill remain illegal for youth. And theGovernment of Alberta is has planned onzero-tolerance enforcement.
Haines-Saah says communities canalso take steps to prevent drug andalcohol use. Youth drinking and druguse in Iceland declined after the countrydeveloped community engagementprograms and emphasized family time.
Such programs can offset influenceson children under 15 such as poverty,trauma or parental use.
Canadian youth have the highestrate of cannabis use of any developedcountry. One-third of youth have triedcannabis at least once by age 15. Andone recent study found that two-thirdsof Indigenous youth, aged 15 to 19,reported using cannabis.
When talking to your kids aboutthe risks of sex, alcohol and drugs,it’s important to avoid emotionalconversations because they can havethe opposite effect, Haines-Saah says.A California study found that urgingkids to abstain from drugs was linked tohigher youth drug use.
Some parents will find they can’tprevent their children from tryingcannabis, says Fiona Clement, directorof the Health Technology AssessmentUnit at UCalgary’s CummingSchool of Medicine.
“There’s no firm recipe for success,”
she says. “Part of it is a hope and a
Parents can also talk to their children
about safe use of cannabis. (See page
Alberta Health Services offers more
information on how to talk to teens
and youth about cannabis. Search
“teen risk-taking” at myhealth.alberta.ca.
Parents can access detailed
advice at Drug Free Kids Canada: