Tips to have a conversation about "Alcohol use and College"
It is important to talk with your student, not at them, about alcohol. Listening might be the easiest way to start this difficult conversation. To get the conversation started, here are some sample questions you could ask your child:
- “What are you most looking forward to at college?
- “What are you most concerned about?”
- “What do you think college life will be like?”
- “If you do have problems while at college, who will you go to for help?”
To see what students and parents have to say about having this difficult discussion please see the video below:
Parents Matter: Talking with your College Student about Alcohol Use.
The Conversation: What to expect
Talking about alcohol is never going to be easy and might be uncomfortable for you AND your child. When the time and setting seem appropriate, suggest to your child that you would like to talk with him/her about the topic. Don’t force the issue of having the conversation; your willingness to back-off, if your child doesn’t want to talk, shows you are respecting them. Your child will react to this topic in various ways; here are some possible reactions by your child:
- Suspicion about your sudden interest in the topic
- Doubts that you will understand/respect them
- Fear of hearing a lecture
- Indifference or lack of concern
- Anger for invasion of their privacy
Your child’s reaction to this conversation will vary. It is important to think through your child’s possible reactions and try to convey:
- Wanting to understand
- Wanting to help
- Respecting your child's privacy and desire to be independent
The Conversation: What to say
While having these conversations with your child, it is important to share accurate information:
- Inform them. Talk about the risks associated with high-risk drinking such as:
Although consuming any amount of alcohol carries at least a moderate risk, inform your child on ways to minimize their risk if they choose to drink, such as:
- Legal consequences and cost (if under 21 and/or driving under the influence)
- Accidents or injuries
- Campus sanctions
- Increased chance of sexual assault
- Reduced academic achievement
- Relationship issues
- Negative impact on the body (e.g. weight gain, blackouts, hangovers, lower inhibitions)
- Never driving after drinking
- Spacing drinks out to no more than one standard drink per hour (to find out more about a standard drink follow this link).
- Not exceeding a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 (to find out more about how to calculate a BAC follow this link).
- Empower your child. Talk to your child about how to stand up for their beliefs and decisions, empower them to take a stand when someone is pressuring them to make high-risk choices. Discuss what they would do if such a situation presented itself and where to go for help.
- Clear up the myths. Students almost always overestimate how much and how often their peers are drinking. Students, especially first-year students, are influenced by peers and tend to drink at the level they perceive their peers are drinking. In fact, most ND college students do not drink alcohol in high-risk ways and almost 27.4% abstain from alcohol use completely. Clearing up those misconceptions regarding their peers’ ACTUAL use is vital.
- Encourage involvement. Students who volunteer and get involved in their communities are less likely to misuse alcohol and other drugs. Many different opportunities exist on campus; encourage your student to become involved.
The Conversation: Continous and Consistent
- Try to ask questions instead of lecture.
- Set CLEAR expectations for your child regarding alcohol use and hold them accountable to those expectations.
- Continue having the conversation, everything doesn’t have to be discussed in a single setting.
- Be a role model – set an example of appropriate drinking behavior in your own life. Sharing stories about your own drinking can send a mixed message to your child.
Suggestions for Parents on How to Communicate with their Children via Text Messages
You are watching television with your son when a story comes on the news reporting a drunk driving crash.
What to Say
"I am so proud of the choices you have made and hope that you would never choose to drink and drive. I bet you could lose your scholarship/job if you did that.”
Here are some texting examples:
ND University System. (2012). NDCORE 2012 Aggregate Alcohol and Other Drug Survey Report. Bismarck, ND: ND Higher Education Consortium for Substance Abuse Prevention.
- Hope UR having fun. Stay smart. Luv u
- Be ur self. Be safe
- I’m lucky ur my kid. Luv u
- Thx for being so great. Have fun. Stay safe
- If u need me – call me
- Remember, I trust u. Love ya
- Remember our talk. Love u and have fun.
- Be careful and have fun.
- Let me know where u r when u have a min. thx
- Give me a call when u get a chance. Luv u
- I’m always here if u need to talk.
- Luv u.