Health Topics

Alcohol & Youth

Alcohol is the drug most often used by students in grades 7 to 12. Children and youth are more likely to be harmed by drinking alcohol. The earlier youth initiate alcohol use, the more likely they are to drink excessively, drink regularly, and experience alcohol related harm.

Some of the effects alcohol has on youth include:

  • Dependency on alcohol later in life. Children and youth who drink alcohol at an early age are more likely to have trouble with alcohol later on.
  • Harm to normal brain development, memory loss or cognitive thinking or understanding. Alcohol is linked to depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
  • Poor decisions and risky behaviours such as driving a car after drinking alcohol, driving with someone who has been drinking alcohol, taking risks with sex or binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks at one time).
  • Violent and aggressive behaviour, which leads to social problems and/or sexual or physical violence.

Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend youth under 19 years of age delay alcohol use for as long as possible and discuss drinking with their parents.

Parenting Resources

As a parent you play a key role in influencing your child and teen’s attitudes and knowledge about alcohol and their decisions to use alcohol and other drugs. Learn how to talk to your child early about alcohol.

1. Know what’s going on in your child’s life (Parental monitoring)

Know who your child is with, what they are doing, and where they are. If children and youth are going to use alcohol, they tend to do it when adults are not around.

2. Develop open and regular communication (General Communication)

Ongoing communication allows children and youth to talk with their parents about areas of interest or worries. Regular communication with your child helps delay alcohol and other drug use.

3. Set expectations and consequences together (General Discipline)

Setting clear expectations helps create an environment where rules are respected

4. Be a positive role model (Parental Modelling)

Children are watching what you do as a parent and are influenced by what you say and do. Think about what message you are sending.

Modeling responsible drinking to children includes limiting your use of alcohol to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

5. Build a close and caring relationship (Parent child relationship quality)

A close, caring and supportive relationship can help delay when youth first try alcohol or other drugs.

6. Don’t provide alcohol or other drugs (Provision of alcohol) 

When parents make alcohol or other drugs available to teens they put them at risk for alcohol and other drug-related harms.

Parents who give alcohol to underage children and youth may be held criminally and civilly responsible. This is what the law says:

  • Selling or giving alcohol to children and youth under 19 years of age will result in a fine and an appearance in court.
  • Children and youth under 19 years of age who have alcohol in their possession, drink alcohol, purchase or try to purchase alcohol are breaking the law under the Liquor License Act. This can result in a fine.

As a parent, you are legally responsible for what goes on in your house. This applies even if you are not present, you do not know your guests are drinking or your guests bring their own alcohol.

For more information on specific tips and strategies see Rethink Your Drinking: Parents Matter Book

Parties and youth

Tips for hosting a party in your home when youth are in attendance include:

  • Make sure that party information is not posted on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.
  • Set a guest list with your child.
  • Have a start and end time for the party.
  • Tell everyone who is invited and/or attends the party that no alcohol is allowed.
  • You should stay at the house during the party.
  • Tell people when they arrive which parts of the house are off limits.
  • Do not allow children and youth to come and go from the party.
  • Make sure that alcohol or medication in your home is not accessible to guests.
  • Have other activities like videos, games or karaoke at the party.

Here are some tips when your child attends a party at someone else’s home:

  • Know where your child is going; get the name, address and phone number of the party location or host.
  • Talk to your child about what to do if alcohol is available.
  • Ask your child to be part of a buddy system with a friend.
  • Make sure your child knows to call home for a ride under any circumstance, even if he or she drinks alcohol.
  • Set a time your child needs to come home.
  • Stay awake until your child gets home.
  • Talk about the rules if your child plans to sleep away from home.

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