Back to School Challenges for Teens

As you prepare for a new school year, there’s something important to talk to your teen about in between shifting schedules and packing lunches… drinking!

If you have a child who is in between grades 7 through 12, the pressure for them to drink or do drugs is unavoidable. According to a recent study, 70% of Canadian youth reported drinking alcohol in the past 12 months. Often dismissed as a rite of passage, underage drinking can have severe consequence for today’s youth:
– Alcohol is related to 50% of motor vehicle accidents in which a youth is killed, and 31% of people involved in alcohol-related traffic deaths were youths.
– Teens who drink tend to become sexually active earlier and have sex more often than teens who don’t drink, and are more likely to have unprotected sex.
– Teens who drink tend to have more academic and conduct problems than their non-drinking peers.Young brains are more susceptible to permanent chemical changes from alcohol and drugs that may result in lifelong problems, especially where there is a genetic predisposition or an inherited family tendency towards addiction.
– People who begin drinking in their early teens are more likely to develop alcohol dependence than people who wait until they are adults to drink.

9 tips for parents on how to talk to your teen about the dangers of drinking

  1. Be calm and approachable. Taking an accusatory stance will only get their defenses up and may result in secrets down the road.
  2. Openly talk about the risks of underage drinking, especially while driving.
  3. Let them know they can come to you no matter what. If an episode of drinking does happen, let them know there is no fear about what has happened and that you overall want to understand and support them in making safe choices.
  4. Set clear, fair and realistic guidelines. Have appropriate consequences for breaking rules and reinforce this, however also show appropriate praise and reward when guidelines are followed.
  5. Model good behaviour. Kids learn from you, so ensure you’re drinking responsibly at home.
  6. Encourage your child to find healthy pursuits, like extra-curricular activities and sports.
  7. Offer non-judgmental, unconditional support and love. Research shows that children of families who spend quality time together have a greatly reduced incidence of problems with drugs and alcohol.
  8. Ask about their peer group. Peers are a huge influence in shaping a child’s current and future drink behaviors. By asking about their peers, can help you understand their concerns in life.
  9. Most importantly—listen, support, and engage with your teen.


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Source: National Institute of Health, and Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

[Editor’s Note: You must be at least the age of majority in your jurisdiction in order to use the Alavida website and services. Remember to always take care of yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency or feel you are in a situation that is unsafe or unhealthy, please seek professional assistance. ]

Alex Lee is a doctoral candidate in social work (DSW C), a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and Clinic Director at Alavida Health. He has over ten years of experience in designing, facilitating, and evaluating evidence-based interventions for individuals and families. Alex is trained in addressing mental health issues, trauma, and substance use and has overseen large-scale mental health services for Navy Medicine and the Red Cross. He also served as the interim Clinical Director for the Department of Mental Health and Statewide Clinical Director for Developmental Centers in California and Nevada.