How to start a conversation
Talking with kids about alcohol can be challenging, but here are some everyday situations to start the conversation:
When sharing a meal
- Discuss traditional ways, and how alcohol was never really part of Inuit culture.
- Discuss the family rules about alcohol use. If alcohol is not allowed in the home, discuss your thoughts and values around this choice.
- Discuss how some people like to have an alcoholic drink with a meal or when socializing. But explain that when people drink too much alcohol, they can become sick, get injured and cause harm to others.
- Discuss the importance of eating while drinking alcohol, because people can feel the effects faster on an empty stomach.
Watching TV or a movie where characters appear drunk
- Discuss how alcohol is affecting the behaviour of the character. Use this example to show how drinking too much alcohol can result in poor decisions, like drinking and driving or getting into fights. Ask them what they think about how alcohol can make someone lose control.
- Explain that a youth’s brain continues to develop until they are in their twenties, and alcohol can harm this development.
- Discuss whether they have ever felt pressure from friends to drink. If they did, how did they respond and what could they do differently in the future?
- Remind them that even if they break the rules around alcohol use, they can always contact you for help no matter what. Remind them they can also reach out to others in the community, including trusted friends, Elders, a nurse or mental health worker.
Attending family or community events where alcohol is present
- If you are having a party or dinner where people will be drinking alcohol, talk about what to do if someone drinks too much. Discuss how you can look out for your friends and make sure they get home safely.
- If you’re at an event in the community, you or your child may see someone drinking too much alcohol and acting silly, getting into a fight or seeming out of control. When you get home consider talking about:
- What they felt or thought about seeing someone so intoxicated.
- Explain that heavy alcohol use affects not only the individual but everyone in the community.
- Your concern for the well-being of this individual and your hope that he or she can get help to deal with a possible drinking problem. Explain that sometimes people use alcohol to cope with trauma, pain or stress in life.
- Whether they have seen any of their friends drunk or have been drunk themselves at some time? If so, how did it make them feel? Discuss plans for them to stay safe if they, or others, are drinking in the future.
- This is a good chance to discuss how alcohol is not necessary to have a good time.
Learning a community member was charged after an alcohol-related incident
- Teenagers are more likely to drink in risky ways without considering the consequences. It’s therefore important to remind them of the potential harm without trying to overly scare them.Teenagers are more likely to drink in risky ways without worrying about the consequences, so it’s important to remind them of the potential harm without trying to overly scare them. Discuss some of the immediate physical effects of drinking too much alcohol, like:
- losing control
- passing out
- forgetting what happened
- alcohol poisoning
- getting in trouble with the law
- becoming a victim of a violent crime
- Discuss the dangers of drinking alcohol and driving cars, snowmobiles, ATVs or boats, as well as the dangers of riding with others who have been drinking.
- Talk about how alcohol can sometimes cause people to make bad decisions and do things they would not normally do. Discuss how heavy alcohol use can increase the risk of getting in fights, or experiencing violence and non-consensual sex.
- Encourage them to look after their friends who may be drinking in harmful ways, even if they do not drink themselves. For example, try to stop a friend from driving if they have been drinking. This demonstrates Pijitsirniq – the Inuit societal value of serving and providing for family and community. It shows the need to respect and take steps to protect others in the community who could be hurt in an accident caused by a driver that is under the influence of alcohol.
- Talk about how to make safer choices around alcohol to reduce the harm. Discuss how much alcohol is considered low-risk and how they can stay safer if they drink.