When you picture an alcoholic, what comes to your mind? A bitter old man, standing on the street corner with an open bottle of booze? Maybe a rough-around-the-edges person, drinking in the middle of the afternoon?

Most likely, the image that pops into your head is not a 15-16 year old.

Yet, an estimated 60% of Canadians aged 15 to 19 drink alcohol. An estimated 15% of these youth drink enough to exceed the adult low-risk drinking guidelines for acute effects, while almost 20% exceed the adult guidelines for chronic impacts. Nobody wants to think of a teen as an alcoholic, even researchers tend against labelling teen alcohol abuse this way. However, 1 in 25 Canadian students admitted to binge drinking (Canadian Community Health Survey, 2014). These kids are at serious risk for alcohol dependency and addiction problems.

Summertime and Alcohol Abuse

These numbers spike in the summer. Why? Kids have so much free time! The days are longer, and kids can find places out in nature where they can indulge without any supervision. This is especially true for older teens.

Parents don’t often realize how serious the problem is, so they refrain from talking to their kids about it. Many studies show that parents tend to underestimate how their kids behave around alcohol. In fact, these studies show that they believe friends of their children would misbehave with alcohol, but their own kids never would. A survey by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality found that about 1 in 7 teens binge drinks yet only 1 in 100 parents believes his or her own teen does it.

How to Curb Summer Drinking

Parents, you have a lot more influence than you think. Monitoring, talking proactively, and being genuinely interested in your teens day to day activities makes a difference!

Here are some other ways you can deal with teens and alcohol:

1: Ignorance is not bliss.

There are a least a few of your teen’s friends drinking — so your kid is likely drinking too. You won’t know unless you ask. Be sincere and concerned, not judgemental. Let them know about the risks associated with drinking. Tell them about your values, and ask them about theirs. The goal here is to have an open and honest conversation. There are studies that show when a teen is approached calmly and reasonably about drug and alcohol abuse, they are more likely to take the message to heart.

2: Practice what you preach.

Summer is the time when everybody kicks back a bit — even parents. And that’s all well and good, but teens will not take advice from someone they see as a hypocrite. If you’ve made alcohol-related mistakes in the past — that your kids know about — talk to them about what you learned from that experience. And if you can’t currently model a healthy relationship with alcohol, own up to it and get yourself into a treatment program.

3: Don’t let your kids drink at home.

There is this belief that if you let your kids drink at home, it will take some of the pressure off — and they’ll be better equipped to make good decisions with alcohol later because the “need” to try it isn’t there. This is simply not true. Research shows that when parents allow their kids to drink at home, they are more likely to drink with their friends. Additionally, drinking at home at a young age can contribute to problems with alcohol in the future.

4: Be interested.

Everyone likes to relax in summer, but during these warm months – parents need to kick up their vigilance on what their kids do throughout the day. Long periods of time left unsupervised, with nothing to do, can lead to some dangerous activities and depression. Be intentional about investing in your kids during the summer months. Help them find meaningful things to do — like a job, volunteer position, camp, classes or sports leagues. These kinds of activities will not only keep them occupied, it can also help them in their future by building their resume or a specific skill set.

5: Make a safety plan.

You can encourage your teen to have parties at your house — that way you can make sure no alcohol is present. However, should they go to another teens house for a party, call that household to ensure the parents will be present and monitoring. However, your teen may still find themselves in a situation where there is alcohol — and they’ve given in to peer pressure. Let your teen know that you will always come to get them, no matter how much they’ve had to drink. Tell them that they should always call you if they have been drinking, or if their ride has been drinking. Agree that when you pick them up there will be no angry scene, or questions asked. You can review the situation and the rules the next day.


Summer, Teens and Alcohol

Teen Drinking: Did You Know Teenagers Drink More Over the Summer?




1 in 25 Canadian school kids say they binge drink