Preventing Your Teenager from Using Alcohol

Parents can influence their children.  Some parenting strategies that you can use to prevent or delay your child from drinking alcohol include:

1. Knowing 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.

  • Teach your child responsible use of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media. Watch your child’s use until you are comfortable with how they use it.
  • Set a time with your child for when they are expected to be home each day.
  • Make sure your child is able to contact you if plans change.
  • Know how your child is getting home safely.

Being overly strict may cause your child to misuse alcohol, so there needs to be a balance.

2. Not providing alcohol to your children

In Ontario, it is illegal to drink alcohol when you are under the age of 19. When parents give alcohol to their children under age 19, they put these children at risk for alcohol-related harm. They also put themselves and the children at legal risk.

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 Licence 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.

3. Setting rules and having consequences when rules are broken

Here are some ways to set rules for your children:

  • Involve your child in making rules and setting consequences for broken rules
  • Be clear on what is expected
  • Be consistent in your approach to delivering consequences
  • Be calm when giving consequences after rules are broken

4. Role modelling by parents

A parent’s choice to use alcohol, as well as how much and when, may affect their children’s decisions.

Showing responsible drinking to children includes:

  • Limiting your use of alcohol according to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines 
  • Limiting use of alcohol in front of your child
  • Providing food and non-alcoholic drinks to all guests when alcoholic drinks are served
  • Avoiding storytelling where alcohol is shown as fun or glamorous
  • Avoiding use of alcohol as a way to cope with stress

5. A good relationship with your child

A good parent–child relationship has closeness and caring. A good relationship is associated with less risky behaviour in children and youth. For a better relationship with your child:

  • Help your child find passions and interests
  • Be involved in your child’s day-to-day life
  • Tell your child that you love them every day
  • Do what you say you will
  • Show that you care about your child

6. Talking openly with your child

 Here are some tips for talking to your child:

Spend time together

  • Do activities that interest your child
  • Eat dinner together often
  • Listen to what your child has to say
  • Respect your child’s privacy
  • Knock before you go into your child’s bedroom
  • Do not snoop through your child’s bedroom

Order resources alcohol prevention resources

To order resources about preventing your teenager from using alcohol from Public Health Services: