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Setting a Good Example for Your Kids

Children are influenced by the world around them, but your actions and attitudes have the strongest influence on them when it comes to many things, including drinking, smoking or using other drugs. Setting a good example, particularly when it comes to drinking alcohol, helps protect your child from making unhealthy choices as they continue to grow and become more independent.

mom, dad, boy and girl playing on beach

From the time they’re born, children learn how to live in the world by observing and imitating those around them. Remember how easily they picked up expressions, some you wished they hadn’t? Your kids learn to process what they see, make choices about what to mimic, and when to engage in certain behaviours by watching the things you do. As children grow up, the actions of others also influence a child’s behaviour.

Model How You Want Children to Behave

By making healthy, responsible decisions around substance use, you demonstrate positive behaviour for your child to mimic. This can help them later in life as they grow into teenagers and are faced with things like peer pressure.

Try to provide your kids with good examples to follow when it comes to substance use:

  • Moderate drinking shows how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol.
  • Abstaining from drinking shows them that alcohol isn’t essential for having fun and enjoying life.
  • Drinking heavily and often shows them that you try to solve problems in an unhealthy way.

Help Kids Make Good Decisions

Kids grow up and eventually make their own decisions. By helping them learn how to make good decisions you can protect them from picking up bad habits from their friends, or maybe even from other parents or adults. Here are some ways to help your children learn about good decision making processes:

  • Help them think through the reasons that they might choose to follow an example, or not
  • Talk through your own decision making process and how you make decisions
  • Limit options when kids are making simple decisions
  • Sharpen thinking skills by playing what-if scenario games. For example, "What would you do if you won a hundred dollars?", "Who would you choose to go on vacation with if we could bring someone?"
  • Encourage slower thinking about decisions so children don’t jump at the first thing they see
  • Practice saying, “Why do I want to do this?”
  • Talk about the process of decision making. For example:
    • identify decisions
    • think of options
    • evaluate each decisions
    • choose and check back on how the decision worked
  • Coach kids through situations. For example, if the scenario is they’re invited to party they don’t want to go:
    • decide on the issue  - ask why don’t they want to go?
    • get them to suggest options - decline the invitation? go to the party anyway?
    • talk about each option
    • help them decide by talking about outcomes and values - what happens if they decline? what happens if they go?
    • ask about it after the event - whether they chose to go or not, how do they feel about their decision after the party has happened?

Responsible Drinking for Community, Family and Health

Alcohol relaxes a person’s heart rate, breathing, and mental processing, and releases feel-good chemicals in the body. Its benefits are largely immediate and personal, but the effects of alcohol on those around you can be harmful and far-reaching.

What does it mean to drink responsibly - in the context of your community? Family? Your own health?


Promote well-being in your community by managing alcohol use in ways that respect the needs and expectations of those around you.

Communities are interconnected networks of relationships. Behaving responsibly means you meet the normal expectations of those connected to you in the community.

Drinking responsibly means drinking in ways that stay in the limits of your community’s expectations. While expectations vary from community to community, the emphasis on “responsible use” acknowledges that drinking can cause people to neglect responsibilities.

Everyone is accountable to drink in ways that don’t harm others or fail to provide reasonable care for others. Drinking should not damage the very fabric of the social relationships that define community.


Parents have particular responsibilities toward children. Every child has the right to expect that their parent’s behaviour is not going to harm, but rather nurture and guide them. If you choose to drink, you have the responsibility to do so in a way that does not hurt your child.

Drinking too much, too often, or in risky ways, sends the message that these behaviours are normal and acceptable for children to adopt when older. Overdoing it also:

  • prevents from other parental responsibilities
  • takes away from quality family time
  • eats up resources better spent on family activities
  • negatively influences behaviour toward family members

Moderation, on the other hand, provides children with a good model of responsible use.


Drinking too much and too often is bad for your health. It puts you at risk of injuries, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, among other things. The more you drink, the greater the risk.

Moderate drinking may contribute to overall health and well-being and not interfere with your responsibilities. Small amounts of alcohol may even lower the risk of heart disease and stroke in some people 45 years or older. But still, these amounts slightly increase the risk of cancer. There is no physical health benefit for younger people.

Did you know?
By helping kids learn how to make good decisions, you can protect them from picking up bad habits outside the home.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Helping your Child Avoid Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol
HealthLink BC: Healthy Habits for Kids

Last Updated: March 31, 2015