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A Guide for Young Adults and Alcohol



You want your children to survive and thrive in the world - to be safe and contribute to healthy, vibrant communities.

Show young adults how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol and equip them to be responsible decision-makers and caring citizens by maintaining positive relationships with them.

You have an important role in shaping the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours of your children, even when they aren’t children anymore. As they develop through adolescence and into adulthood, young people are increasingly influenced by peers, their own experiences and their knowledge of the world. This is how it should be - young adults discovering their own identity and independence. But, that doesn’t mean your role as the parent becomes obsolete.

Rather, you can become a valued advisor. And you can show them through your own behaviour how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol by promoting a culture of moderation and responsibility.

Consider Your Own Relationship with Alcohol

How are your own drinking practices shaped and managed within your own social context?

Most of us have a strong need to connect with others, be liked by others, and belong to groups. Alcohol can play a positive role in fulfilling these needs. But it can also lead to negative health and social consequences. Think about how you use alcohol and what influences your behaviour. By making responsible decisions for yourself, you help guide young people in making their own responsible decisions.

Relationships are Key

Your ability to influence your children depends to some extent on your ability to maintain a positive relationship with them as they become adults. Support their critical thinking and personal management skills to boost confidence in communicating their own attitudes, beliefs, and positions to friends and others in social situations. Here are five tips on how to maintain an effective relationship with your adult child:

  1. Lead by example: be responsible, drink in moderation, and take responsibility if you go overboard to provide your children with a credible example and help shape healthy social norms in society.
  2. Be clear about roles: recognize and support their status as emerging adults forming their own values, beliefs, and behaviours. Be a “sounding board” for them as they develop their personality and make independent choices about alcohol and other drugs.
  3. Always be ready to discuss: have conversations about life - college, work, romantic relationships, the use of money. Draw out reflective insight, practice active listening, and avoid being confrontational, authoritarian or dismissive.
  4. Be honest: acknowledge the positive effects and appeal of alcohol in our society to create a more real context so that your adult children will be more receptive to your observations about their alcohol-related choices and behaviours. Be careful with stories about the past. The “good old days” were not all good. Your stories of past excesses might inspire a more careful approach, or they might give the wrong impression.
  5. Encourage rather than criticize: encourage young people to expand their social network rather than criticize current relationships when they seem stuck in a rut. Try inviting them to different social opportunities. Or inspire them to get their friends doing interesting activities that decentralize alcohol.

Resources & Links: Tips for Safer Alcohol Use
HealthLink BC: Quick Tips: Cutting Back on Drinking
Canadian Mental Health Association: Balancing Your Life

Last Updated: March 31, 2015