How to Talk to My Teen About Drugs and Alcohol

Substance Use   ›   How to Talk to My Teen About Drugs and Alcohol

Substance use is a topic that parents will often want to talk about with their teen to help them make good decisions and stay safe. With these tips, learn how to discuss this topic and how to manage potential substance use.

When speaking about the reality of drinking and drug use with our teens, as parents, we can guide them to make informed choices and decisions that ensure their safety and develop their competencies.


Before Bringing Up the Topic of Drugs and Alcohol

Before starting a conversation with your teen, it is a good idea to do the following:


  • Know your values and your position on alcohol and drug use.
  • Foster a strong and caring relationship with your child, this will make it easier to have a dialogue and conversation.
  • Establish family rituals to discuss it. This will reinforce family relationships.
  • Choose a time when both you and your child are available and willing (open to listening and interested in understanding each other’s perspectives on the topic) in order to promote a constructive and respectful conversation, without judgement.
  • Give them ways to vent and break out of isolation. Don’t hesitate to get help if needed.
  • Keep in mind that listening and having a discussion does not necessarily mean approving or condoning the behaviour.


Maybe you and your teen don’t have the same opinions on the topic, however, it is important that they understand and feel that they can trust you and speak to you about their challenges without the fear of being judged.


Starting the Discussion About Alcohol and Drugs

Here is a list of topics that you can bring up with them depending on their age, questions, and experience with alcohol and other drugs.


  • If they have already drank or used drugs, discuss their experience. For example, what they learned and what they did or didn’t like.
  • Ask them what they know about drugs and alcohol and the effects, risks, consequences, etc. If needed, supplement this with information about the effects (positive and negative), potential short- and long-term consequences on their physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, the law, etc.
  • Talk to them about their perception of problematic drug and alcohol use. This can be an opportunity to see what your teen thinks. In their opinion, when does drug or alcohol use become a problem? This discussion can give you the chance to speak about the risks of problematic use and ways to prevent it, as well as the advantages of moderation.
  • Discuss the reasons a person may want to experiment with drugs and alcohol.  
  • Discuss strategies that your teen can use when experiencing peer pressure and their ability to provide self-affirmation. For example: their ability to say no, and how to do that. Why not brainstorm some ways to say no with them? Help your teen find reasons why they have the right to refuse to drink or use drugs: the taste, awareness of the risks, no desire, previous negative experience, not wanting to lose control, respecting the law, personal principles, religious adherence, health, etc. Remind them that they are not obliged to drink or use drugs.
  • Get them to think about other ways to have fun rather than drinking and using drugs: spending time with friends while sober, working on special projects, sports, or other fun and validating activities that do not involve alcohol or drugs; being able to provide self-affirmations, developing passions and interests, spending time with family, etc.
  • Look at different ways of drinking and using drugs and the benefits of moderation. Among other things, this will allow them to avoid putting themselves or others in danger.
  • Get them to think about ways to evaluate their drinking and drug use so that they are capable of determining their personal limits and discuss what they can do if they exceed it.
  • Discuss specialized resources about alcohol and drugs to help them, or to answer their questions: school or Tel-jeunes counsellors, for example.


Set Limits

As a parent, our position on alcohol and drugs should be clear and consistent. However, it should not prevent your teen from making their own choices or having their own experiences. It is important that your teen knows your expectations and the consequences that they’ll face if they don’t respect the family rules.


  • Set an example as an adult by drinking and using drugs responsibly.
  • With your teen, explore ways of ensuring their safety when they drink or use drugs. For example, by not leaving them a vehicle if you know they are going to drink or use drugs. You can also talk to them about how to ensure their safety: you’ll come get them, they can take a taxi, etc.
  • Depending on their age and your values, forbid them or make them wait until they are older to drink and use drugs. It will be important to discuss the reasons for your decision.
  • Forbid them or their friends from being under the influence of drugs in your home or on the property.
  • Forbid them from using or having substances in the home. Also discuss the legal consequences for both you and them.
  • Ensure that their allowance will not be used for drugs or alcohol without your consent.
  • If your teen crosses the boundaries that you have clearly explained and you have concerns, you can meet with a professional with them.

You would also like this related content