PARENTS' SECTION - YOU AND YOUR CHILD
Every parent must think through how best to introduce their children to the pleasures and pitfalls of alcohol consumption. It is important that children are given accurate and balanced advice about alcohol. You may think your children will encounter alcohol whatever you do, so what’s the point of talking about alcohol? Well, the first part is true; your teens will come across alcohol via their friends, at parties and in their everyday lives as they get older. Some will have tasted alcohol in the family home or at a celebration – and it you, in kids’ opinion, that are the most important influence as to when and how much they drink,through: the example you set, the house rules, the allowance and freedoms you allow them. According to the 2012 GfK Roper Youth Report, 73% of children ages 13 to 17 say that their parents are the number one influence on whether they drink alcohol.
As your teenagers get older knowing about the law, keeping them safe and setting boundaries are key too. This section gives tips and guidance for you to approach the issue of drinking with your children, teenagers or students. Talking about it early on will help your child to understand alcohol and its effects, and make sensible choices about drinking in the future.
The Canadian low risk guidelines advise that as alcohol can harm the way the body and brain develop. Teens should speak with their parents about drinking. If they choose to drink, they should do so under parental guidance; never more than 1–2 drinks at a time, and never more than 1–2 times per week. They should plan ahead, follow local alcohol laws and consider the Safer drinking tips you can view in this brochure. Youth in their late teens to age 24 years should never exceed the daily and weekly limits
Practical ways to delay teen drinking (Click here for more information)
Research shows that the younger a person is when they start to drink regularly, the greater their risk of alcohol-related problems later in life. By highlighting the short term effects of getting drunk, such as being sexually assaulted or robbed, plus the embarrassment of looking a fool in front of their mates, you can help delay the age that teenagers start drinking and the amount they consume. This is more effective than just saying ‘don’t’. These tips should help:
Set an example
Over a twelve month period, the teenage Britons, Irish and Swedes are twice as likely to have binge drinking occasions compared to the Italians and the French. Their lack of 'binge' culture is often explained by the Mediterranean lifestyle whereby alcohol is introduced at mealtimes and by the drinking environment which revolves around family meals, cafes and restaurants rather than bars and clubs. In a report on 'Binge drinking: Causes, Consequences and Cures', Adrian Furnham suggests that parents play the central and the most powerful causative role in establishing drinking patterns. Upbringing determines the child’s values, media consumption, friendships and expenditure as well as setting an example by their own drinking. It is vital for parents to recognize the excitement and rewards offered by drinking as part of ‘independence’. Demonizing alcohol is counter productive, so get talking!
Get talking – when do you start?
Children are naturally curious about alcohol - they see people drinking and they want to know more. Kids will be influenced by their friends,their teachers, TV,films and the media – but in most cases, parents have the biggest effect on their children’s behaviour, including how they drink alcohol. So you’re in a good position to make sure they have the facts about alcohol and drinking, and can make sensible choices in the future.
At what age should I talk about drinking?
Very young children
By the time a child is aged five, research shows they have already formed basic attitudes and opinions about alcohol. If you drink at home, your children are bound to ask questions at an early age about what you are drinking and what it tastes like.It is tempting to say ‘wait until you are older’, but it is worth explaining to your child that little bodies can’t digest alcohol, which is ‘strong’ so they should wait until they are older.no one size fits all message, but gearing your conversation to different ages helps.
13 – 14 year-olds
It is at this age that a child may well try alcohol, so it’s important to talk an early stage and for your child to have an understanding of drinks, how alcohol affects the body and liver, why young bodies can’t cope with alcohol and the risks they run by experimenting. This is why the low risk guidelines recommend caution and limits, as their brains and livers are not fully developed and are more liable to damage than adults. Growing up is an awkward time, reaching puberty, their social lives changing, relationships and peer pressure growing - and probably being less open with you. Try not to force the subject, wait until the subject comes up via the TV, the media or similar. Put a conversation about drinking in context with other ‘life skills’, such as staying safe, talking about drugs and what sex is all about. You might think your ‘baby’ is too young for all this, but unfortunately in this savvy world they’ll be more informed than you think! A good approach is often to talk about an embarrassing or dangerous situation you, or someone you know, got into when young and the consequences.
Finding the right balance between protecting your child and giving them freedom isn’t easy. You can’t be by their side all the time, and they wouldn’t thank you for it anyway. However, with communication and trust, you can help them to make the right decision in a tricky situation, learn from their mistakes, come to you for advice when needed and still stay safe. Research shows that older teenagers often experiment with alcohol in the company of their friends, but if their parents have been good and open role models, they are less likely to develop bad habits with respect to alcohol.
Once your child has gone to college or is living away from home for the first time, it is harder to influence them and you have no control over the time they come home or how they drink and eat. The path to self-respect and independence should have been properly laid already, but the following advice might help:
For more information see
It is important to ensure you are not breaking the law.
Few states specifically prohibit minors' consumption of alcohol in private settings and/or in the presence of a parent or guardian. In most provinces of Canada the legal age to serve or drink alcohol on premise is nineteen (except for Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta, where it is 18). In Canada, there is no federally defined legal drinking age—each province and territory sets its own limits.
The legal age for purchasing, possessing, consuming and/or supplying alcohol in each province and territory is listed in the table below.
To view a table of International legal drinking ages click here
© 2000 Alcohol in Moderation. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.