Tips for Parents

You DO make a difference!

You are the first line of defence when it comes to your child’s substance use.

Three-quarters of teenagers see great risk of upsetting their parents or losing the confidence of their family if they drink alcohol, consume cannabis or use other substances.

Source: DFK 2017 attitudinal tracking survey

Here are some simple steps you can take towards preventing drug and alcohol use by your child.   



It won’t be a democracy, but according to many parenting experts, it shouldn’t be. Ultimately, it’s not pestering, it’s parenting.

  • Set rules.  Let your pre-teen or teen know that drug and alcohol use is unacceptable and that these rules are set to keep him or her safe. Set limits with clear consequences for breaking them.
  • Praise and reward good behaviour for compliance and enforce consequences for non-compliance.
  • Keep track of your child’s activities. Know where your pre-teen or teen is and what he or she will be doing during unsupervised time.  Of course, your kids might not like you keeping tabs on where they are and what they’re doing.  Research shows that teens with unsupervised time are three times more likely to use cannabis, alcohol or other drugs. Unsupervised kids are also more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as underage drinking, sexual activity, and vaping or cigarette smoking than other teens. This is particularly important after school, in the evening hours, and also when school is out during the summer or holidays.
  • Talk with your pre-teen or teen. While shopping or riding in the car, casually ask him how things are going at school, about his friends, what his plans are for the weekend, etc.

 Talk with your child about the future - Amelia Arria, PhD


  • Keep them busy — especially between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and into the evening hours. Engage your teen in after-school activities. Enroll your child in a supervised educational program or a sports league. Research shows that teenagers that are involved in constructive, adult-supervised activities are less likely to use drugs than other teens.
  • Check on your teenager. Occasionally check-in to see that your kids are where they say they’re going to be and that they are spending time with whom they say they are with.
  • Establish a "core values statement" for your family. Consider developing a family mission statement that reflects your family’s core values. This might be discussed and created during a family meeting or over a weekend meal together. Talking about what they stand for is particularly important at a time when teens are pressured daily by external influencers on issues like drugs, sex, violence, or vandalism. If there is no compass to guide your kids, the void will be filled by the strongest force.
  • Spend time together as a family regularly and be involved in your kid's lives. Create a bond with your child. This builds up credit with your child so that when you have to set limits or enforce consequences, it’s less stressful.

Remind your teen of your support - Amelia Arria PhD

  • Take time to learn the facts about marijuana and underage drinking and their use of other substances.  Then talk to your pre-teen or teen about the harmful health, social, learning, and mental effects on young users.
  • Get to know your teen's friends (and their parents) by inviting them over for dinner or talking with them at your teen’s soccer practice, dance rehearsal, or other activities.

  • Stay in touch with the adult supervisors of your child (camp counselors, coaches, employers, teachers) and have them inform you of any changes in your teen. Some warning signs of drug use include: keeping a distance from family and existing friends, hanging out with a new circle of friends, lack of interest in personal appearance, or changes in eating or sleeping habits.