greater the likelihood of developing
problems with drinking,” says Cheryl
Houtekamer, Youth Addiction Services
Calgary, Alberta Health Services.
Those problems can be wide ranging
and include absenteeism from school,
conflict at home or mental health
But parents who simply tell their
children “you can’t drink” may find
that message ineffective.
“Teaching your child about alcohol
isn’t an order or a one-time discussion,”
Research shows an ongoing
conversation between parents and
teens is essential for teens to make
informed decisions about alcohol use.
This includes sharing information,
encouraging questions and having
regular chats about the positive and
negative impacts of drinking.
As a parent, you may find such
conversations are easier when you’re
learning about teen alcohol use and
understanding what can lead teens to
drink, such as poor school performance,
having friends who drink, low self-esteem and/or mental health concerns
such as trauma, stress or depression.
Your own attitudes to drinking also
come into play; for example, how often
you drink, access to alcohol in your
home and how often you’re at home.
Children who see their parents
making healthy choices are more likely
to make healthy choices themselves.
Houtekamer’s advice: support your
teens by helping them feel good about
themselves and encouraging them to
take part in healthy activities.
“Parents also need to be willing to
provide clear guidelines and practise
what they preach,” says Houtekamer.
This direction and guidance can be
the most powerful message teens get
— Colleen Seto
In advertising, movies, TV shows
and everyday life, today’s kids are
exposed to hundreds of messages about
drinking every week.
In many of those messages, alcohol
is depicted as youthful, glamorous,
sophisticated and fun. And while
virtually every brewer, distiller
and vintner promotes “responsible
drinking,” almost no one talks about
The 2008 Alberta Youth Experience
Survey found that 15 per cent of Grade 7
youth and 75 per cent of Grade 12 youth
had consumed alcohol in the previous
“The younger children are when they
start and the more often they drink, the
For information, see the Parent information
Series at albertahealthservices.ca/2434.asp.
Giving your teen a clear
message about drinking
An ongoing conversation is essential for teens to make
informed decisions about alcohol use