Parents have the biggest influence in their children's lives. How a parent uses alcohol can influence their children's decisions about alcohol use.
- Talking with your child or teen is important so that they have a foundation to build good decisions about alcohol.
- Talking with your child and teen will also make sure that they know your values and opinions on alcohol use, as well as provincial laws.
You can help your children avoid early alcohol use by being a good role model. By being active, eating healthy and drinking responsibly, parents teach their children important lessons. Examples include:
- Model healthy drinking habits; avoid drinking too much alcohol.
- Have alcohol-free celebrations to show your children you can have fun without alcohol.
- Set clear rules about alcohol use.
- Avoid boasting about alcohol use.
- When you are planning an event, don't make alcohol the focus.
- Offer several refreshment options, including non-alcoholic drinks.
- Remember that the legal drinking age is 19 years of age.
- If you host a party for your adult friends, be sure to do so in a responsible way. Check out the Planning a Party? A Guide to Social Hosting from the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority for ideas.
From 0 to 8 years of age
Children learn by watching, listening, asking questions and mimicking behaviour. Although small children may not ask many questions about alcohol, it is still an important time in their lives to establish health behaviours for when they are older.
- Be a good role model.
- Answer all of your children's questions honestly and at a level that they can understand.
- Help your children practice their decision making skills by giving them options and through play and exploration. Giving them options to choose from helps them to feel confident and trusted to make good decisions.
- Teach your children to say "no" to things that are unsafe, or that make them feel uncomfortable.
- If they ask, explain how you feel about alcohol use.
- Do you feel it's okay for adults to have an occasional drink, as long as they act responsibly?
- Do you prefer that alcohol not be allowed in your home?
- What factors influence your values?
- Talk about them.
- Never forget that alcohol can hurt a child's growing body and brain.
From 8 to 12 years of age (pre-teens)
At this time, children may start to show more curiosity about alcohol. Pre-teens often get messages about alcohol from their friends, media and the internet. You cannot control every message that your pre-teen gets, but you can include your own messages for them to hear and learn from.
- Use time spent together in the car or at the supper table to have conversations about things that are important to your pre-teen and you, including your family values and how your family feels about alcohol use.
- Answer questions about alcohol without exaggerating or using scare tactics.
- Help them understand how advertising works and encourage them to question messages they receive from the media.
- Set clear expectations and rules around their use of alcohol.
- Make sure they understand the consequences of underage alcohol use, including the legal implications.
- Encourage healthy ways for your pre-teens to have fun and develop positive self-esteem by participating in activities that interest them.
- Stay involved in their lives by planning one-on-one time or family activities.
- Get to know their friends and friend's families.
- Teach your pre-teens how to make smart choices and how to say "no" to peer pressure.
From 13 to 19 years of age (teens)
Teenagers might think that drinking alcohol is a good way to celebrate important milestones in their lives, such as:
- A first date;
- Getting a driver's license;
- Getting a job;
- Summer vacation;
- Their last year of school;
Talk with your teen about the real-life, possible consequences of alcohol use, including:
- Doing something embarrassing;
- Getting into a fight with a friend (or stranger);
- Getting sick;
- Being involved in a car collision;
- Getting in trouble at school and/or at home.
You can also try these tips:
- Choose times and places that make it easier to talk.
- Bring up the topic naturally - like after watching a TV show or a movie that involves alcohol; or when there is a news story that involves alcohol use.
- Make sure your teens know the laws regarding alcohol, including underage use, open alcohol and drinking and driving.
- Be open and honest. Encourage your teens to share their thoughts, experiences, feelings and opinions.
- Answer your teen's questions about alcohol without exaggerating or using scare tactics.
- Set clear expectations and rules around alcohol use. Teens want parents to set boundaries, even if they sometimes disobey the rules.
- Teach your teens how to make smart choices and how to rise above peer pressure.
Questions to help kick-start a conversation about alcohol with your teen:
- Why do you think alcohol is illegal for people under the age of 19?
- What do you think about our house rules around alcohol? If you were a parent, what would you change?
- Have you been bothered or impacted by someone's alcohol use? What about it bothered you?
- Do any of your friends drink alcohol? When and why do you think they do?
- What do you think when people your age drink alcohol?
- What would you say if your friend offered you some alcohol? What would you say if a stranger did? Would it make a difference?
The bottom line is that if it's your teen, and your alcohol, you're responsible.