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Alcohol, Drugs and the Family

Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on the Family

cocktail on a patioKids watch and imitate their parents. They pick up your habits and beliefs, both good and bad. Our attitudes influence our children’s view of alcohol and other drugs, especially at an early age. Help your children to know your family values and rules about alcohol and drugs. It is confusing for a child when parents’ actions do not match their words.

What kind of Example are you Setting?

  • Do you drink alcohol every day?
  • Do you always drink when you celebrate something important?
  • Do you think it is cool or funny to get drunk?
  • Do you ever drink and drive?
  • Has your child ever seen you drunk?
  • Do you ever ask your child to bring a drink to you?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes?
  • Do you ever talk about “needing” or “craving” a cigarette?
  • Do you smoke marijuana?
  • Do you use any other illicit drug?
  • Do you take sleeping pills often?

If you or a family member answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to think about making a change!

If you use Alcohol or Prescription Drugs:

Think about the messages you send when you use these. Don’t just be a role model – be a ‘good’ role model:

  • If you drink, follow the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines
    • No more than 2 standard drinks (5 oz of wine, 1.5 oz of spirits or 12 oz of beer) a day with a weekly limit of 10 for women and 15 for men (with no more than 3 standard drinks a day).
    • Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
  • When your child is older talk about your family values and rules about alcohol use.
  • Know your limits and stick to them, especially around your child.
  • Alcohol and breastfeeding – refer to “Exclusive Breastfeeding” section for further information.
  • Avoid smoking in front of your child and/or talking about cigarette cravings.
  • Explain why some people take prescription drugs. Emphasize the importance of using prescriptions only as directed by a doctor. Never give your child a medication prescribed for someone else.
  • Show that you can have a good time without the use of alcohol or other drugs.

Safe Use of Medication

Sometimes we forget about the potential dangers of medicine like cough syrup, aspirin, or even vitamins. Help your children to understand the  safe use of medication, vitamins and other products. Medicines should be stored behind a lock, or where children cannot reach them. Young children should have medicine only with adult supervision.

Help Your Child Feel Good About Him or Herself!

Children need information, a good sense of self-esteem, and a sense of personal responsibility. That helps them make good decisions now and in the future. It is our job as parents and community members to help children to be the best they can be!


Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (online), 2011
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (online), 2012
Parent Action on Drugs (online), 2013