For Family

Talking to Your Kids About Alcohol, Drugs, and Gambling

 Young people are surrounded by mixed messages about alcohol, drugs, and gambling.


Most parents and caregivers worry about what the teen years might bring when it comes to the choices our children will make about alcohol, drugs or gambling. Some teens may experiment with use, but never go on to develop a problem. Others may engage in regular use that becomes more of a concern. It may not always be easy to tell where your teen’s behaviour may be leading. There are many things that can make some young people more vulnerable to problems caused by alcohol and drug use or gambling. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, concerns can arise. Whether you are caring for a young person who has yet to reach the teen years (when experimentation is more common), or your teen is already using substances or gambling, keep the following in mind:

You Have Influence

You’re not the only influence in your child’s life when it comes to alcohol, drugs, and gambling, but you are a big one. Most teens report that their behavior is influenced by how they were raised. So even though you may hear a groan or see eyes rolling, the messages you give your kids stick more than you may think. Even more important is how you model behaviour for your teen. Your kids are taking a cue from the choices you make about alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

Getting Informed Helps

There is a lot of misinformation out there about alcohol, drugs, and gambling. Staying informed from trustworthy sources will help you and your teen sort out the myths from facts. We’ve listed some online resources below. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers to your teen’s questions. If there is something you don’t know, do some research together about it. This can have even more impact on how your teen absorbs the information. It can also be helpful to talk with other parents and caregivers for ideas on how they have successfully dealt with educating their teens about various issues as well as how they set limits on their teens behaviour.

Find a Way to Talk About It

It can be difficult to talk about sensitive subjects with our children. What can make it easier is using the other influences in their lives as a starting point. Movies, music, news stories and even advertisements can help to start a conversation. Ask your teen what his or her thoughts are and share your own. Be open and responsive if your teen comes to you with questions. This will encourage your teen to be open with you.

Remember to Listen

It’s easy to swing into lecture mode when talking to our teens about important subjects like drug and alcohol use or gambling. Your teen will be more likely to come to you for support if you listen in a non-judgmental way to what he or she is saying. Letting your teen know that you understand their opinion does not mean you have to agree with it. After acknowledging what they have to say, offer your own thoughts.

Trust your instincts

You know your teen best. If something leads you to think your teen might be using drugs, alcohol or gambling, communicate your concern. Focus on sharing specific behaviours you’ve noticed. Do it in a way that is respectful and caring. There’s no doubt this can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it can be the best intervention.

We’re Here for You

If you’re concerned about your teen’s alcohol, drug use or gambling, you’re not alone. Many parents contact us to simply talk through their concerns or to get information. Others get additional support to address more serious concerns. AFM has many different kinds of services to support you, your teen and your family.

Other Resources

The following online resources provide helpful information about alcohol, drugs, and gambling as well as tips for talking with your teen:






DISCLAIMER: This website provides general information only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of posting. The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba is not responsible for and may not be in agreement with information provided by other websites that are linked to this site.