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 talking
with their children about sex, alcohol or
cannabis. But these conversations can
positively influence a child’s choices and
“A lot of anxiety comes from thinking
that if we talk about it, it will encourage
its use,” says Rebecca Haines-Saah.
She holds a PhD in behavioural health
sciences and is an assistant professor at
the Department of Community Health
Sciences at the University of Calgary’s
Cumming School of Medicine.
One key reason for talking to kids about
topics such as cannabis, alcohol and sex
is to give them reliable information, she
says. Research has found, for example,
that many youths think cannabis is
harmless. It’s not (see page 13).
Children also need to know that
cannabis use is only legal for adults and
will remain illegal for youth. And the
Government of Alberta is has planned on
Haines-Saah says communities can
also take steps to prevent drug and
alcohol use. Youth drinking and drug
use in Iceland declined after the country
developed community engagement
programs and emphasized family time.
Such programs can offset influences
on children under 15 such as poverty,
trauma or parental use.
Canadian youth have the highest
rate of cannabis use of any developed
country. One-third of youth have tried
cannabis at least once by age 15. And
one recent study found that two-thirds
of Indigenous youth, aged 15 to 19,
reported using cannabis.
When talking to your kids about
the risks of sex, alcohol and drugs,
it’s important to avoid emotional
conversations because they can have
the opposite effect, Haines-Saah says.
A California study found that urging
kids to abstain from drugs was linked to
higher youth drug use.
Some parents will find they can’t
prevent their children from trying
cannabis, says Fiona Clement, director
of the Health Technology Assessment
Unit at UCalgary’s Cumming
School 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: