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 seethe 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 students 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:
- Caring for your student
- Wanting to understand your student
- Wanting to help your student
- Respecting your student’s privacy and desire to independent
The Conversation: What to say
While having these conversations with your child, it is important to share accurate information with
- Inform them. Talk about the risks associated with high-risk drinking such as:
- Legal Consequences and cost (if under 21 and/or driving under the influence)
- Accidents or injuries
- Campus judiciary sanctions
- Increased chance of sexual assault
- Reduced academic achievement
- Relationship issues
- Negative impact on the body (e.g. weight gain, blackouts, hangovers, lower
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:
- 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 student 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
- Clear up the myths. Student 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 student
do not drink alcohol in high-risk ways and almost 30% 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
- Continue having the conversation, everything doesn’t have to be discussed in a single
- 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 student.
Information developed by Dr. Sharon Query, Sarah Lybeck, Crystal Glanzer and Jane Vangsness Frisch
Suggestions for Parents on How to Communicate with their Children via Text Messages
- 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.