Parent Action Tips

10 Strategies for Helping Your Teen Make Good Decisions about Alcohol & Other Drugs

  1. Spend quality time with your kids and be involved in their lives.  Find out, in a friendly way, where your teen is and who they’re with.
  2. Be open to negotiating with your teen about limits, family rules and consequences related to alcohol and other drug use.
  3. Start having talks about alcohol and other drugs early—before your kids reach adolescence—then keep talking and listening. Begin with the easier discussions about high caffeine energy drinks and prescription drugs, and build from there.  Ask them what they know first.  Use movies, news stories and advertisements as the basis to discuss how alcohol and other drugs are shown in the media.
  4. Discuss a broad range of issues—not limited to substance use—with your teen and invite their opinions, even if they are different from your own.
  5. As they go through the teenage years, let your kids know what you think the safest choices about alcohol and other drugs are and what you expect of them.  Stress to never mix drugs and alcohol, or use drugs when alone.
  6. Let teens know that their safety comes first, especially when you tackle the more difficult issues around drinking and cannabis and other drugs.  Let them know they can depend on you to help them if they feel concerned about their own or a friend’s safety.  Tell them to call 911, if they feel it’s an emergency.
  7. Set an example by being responsible about your own use of alcohol and other drugs. If you choose to drink or use cannabis, refer to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. and Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use GuidelinesDiscuss how you use the guidelines to manage your own drinking.
  8. Recognize that experimentation and mistakes happen. By understanding that a teen’s brain—especially the areas in charge of impulse control—is still developing, you’ll be able to better understand why your teen may place themselves in risky situations. Help your teen to reflect on a mistake to make it into a learning opportunity, but be sure to wait until you’re both calm and ready to discuss a problem rationally.
  9. Stay in the know. You don’t have to be an expert, but being informed about current evidence related to alcohol & other drugs will give you the information you need to help your teen make better choices.
  10. Consider the big picture. Many youth today experience anxiety, stress and depression. Changes in mood, behaviour and attitude could be an indication of a problem with alcohol or other drugs, a mental health problem—or both. If you feel your teen is experiencing problems, seek help from a professional.