How to tell if youth are drinking

It can be scary to find out that your child has been drinking. But try not to panic. Not all kids who drink alcohol will drink in harmful ways or develop drinking problems later in their lives.

However, it’s important to understand your kid's drinking behaviours, and whether they are simply experimenting with alcohol, using it responsibly in social situations, or drinking to deal with stress/emotions that can lead to physical harm and future dependency.



Here are some signs that your kids may have problems with alcohol:**
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability and anger for no apparent reason.
  • Major change in school performance, skipping school or getting into trouble.
  • Disrespectful behaviour and rebelling against family rules.
  • Loss of interest in former activities or things they used to love.
  • Lack of interest in personal appearance or hygiene.
  • Low energy, restlessness, fatigue or depression.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Physical or mental problems including memory loss, inability to focus and concentrate, glassy or bloodshot eyes, poor coordination or motor skills or slurring their speech.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Spending a lot of time alone or in their room.
  • Finding them drunk or smelling alcohol on their breath.

**Some of these signs may be similar to the normal developmental changes that teenagers go through, so it is important not to jump to conclusions. However, it’s important to talk to them about your concerns and to help them understand their own feelings and behaviours better. Remember to reach out for help if you need extra support for yourself or your child. It can be a nurse, a trusted community member or a mental health worker.

Activity to explore youth alcohol use

If you think your kids may be drinking alcohol and are concerned that it’s becoming a problem, this activity can help explore the possible effects alcohol is having on their lives.

Suggest that they make a list that reminds them of what’s important to them and what they want for their future. 

Examples of things in their lives that are important can include:
  • family
  • friends
  • sports
  • school
  • job (if they have one)
  • money
  • relationships
  • activities like hunting, fishing, carving, cooking, sewing
Once completed, here are a few suggested questions to ask your child:

  • Has drinking alcohol negatively affected any of these areas in your life? And if so, how?
  • Does drinking alcohol allow you to do more of the things you like to do, or does it stop you from doing what you like?
  • How do you think things would be different in your life if you drank less or didn’t drink alcohol at all?
  • What do you think would be the biggest roadblock for you to make a change and drink less or in safer ways?
  • What would make it easier for you to change how you drink alcohol?
  • If you decided to change how you drink, what steps could you take to make it happen? For example, planning more non-drinking activities with friends; telling friends ahead of time that you won’t be drinking; limiting your drinks to only one.