Talking to Your College-Bound Kid About Alcohol

Unfortunately, alcohol-related incidences at colleges across the country have led to tragic results. It does little to ease the minds of parents with children headed to college next fall. Instead of ignoring or assuming that your child knows how to treat alcohol responsibly, it’s better to arm your child with the proper knowledge to become a responsible college student. It doesn’t matter if it’s your firstborn, your only child or baby of the family, letting go as they leave for college is one of the hardest transitions a parent will ever go through. The best way to address the many fears going through your mind as your not-so-little one heads off to the next chapter of his or her life is to provide them with all of the knowledge and tools they will need to overcome potentially high risk situations.

One must-have talk is all about alcohol.

College is a time for exploration and trying things you normally may not do while still living at home. According to NYU Steinhardt, “over 80% of college students have at least one alcohol drink over a two-week time period, and 40% are binge drinking on occasion.” With binge drinking at the top of the freshman risk-taking activities list, this is one part of the college experience you want to make sure your child prepares for ahead. Here are some tips to help navigate your discussion to make sure mom’s advice sticks.

Starting the Conversation

It is important that you discuss alcohol use with your child sooner rather than later. During the kick-off of summer before they head off to their college of choice is a great time. This will give you plenty of time to continue to check back in with this topic several times before the big move to school. Keep the conversation informative but with the positive under tone that “living life sober is fun.”

Do Your Research

Doing a little detective work on your end of emergency resources available on and off the college campus to provide to your child is key. Make sure you know:

  • What transportation services are available in the event your teen needs a ride home.
  • What are the important phone numbers to emergency services in the area in case they need help.
  • What student organizations does the college offer that your child can enroll in to be involved in positive activities outside of alcohol.

Make the Call

Keeping in contact with your teen over the first few weeks is a good idea. That is when your child is adjusting to college life and may be faced with the peer pressure to drink alcohol as a way to “fit in.” Keep a calm voice and ask them, “So what’s the drinking scene like? Are there lots of parties?” Allow them to answer and never interrupt or respond in anger.

Keeping “in the know” with what risky situations your child is facing will help guide you in further discussions about how to overcome them.


Be Present

Check out their college calendar and find out when parents’ day and homecoming are. Mark them on your calendar and plan to attend. It is helpful to be present for these activities and take advantage of the opportunity to become familiar with your child’s housing and campus surroundings. Even better, it’s a great chance to get to know the friends he/she is hanging out with.

Tap Into the Fraternity & Sorority Life

If your teen is interested in exploring the possibility of joining a fraternity or sorority, you want to polish up on your knowledge of initiations and hazing practices. According to Stop Hazing, “3 in 5 college students are subjected to hazing.” Understand what goes on and make sure your child knows it is anything BUT a rite of passage, rather something they should never tolerate or be involved with.

Keep the Conversation Going

Just with any life lesson, the more you talk about it, the deeper it all sinks in. Don’t stop at just one conversation about alcohol abuse and binge drinking. Your child needs to know it’s an important risky behavior to avoid. Continuing the discussion will also build a comfort level between you and your teen, so that if the situation ever comes up, they know they can come to you for help.

Watching your teen move into life as a young adult is hard. Your sense of protection over them is challenged. By touching base on the issues that worry you most, you can give them the guidance they need to make the right decisions and avoid situations that may harm them.

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