Parents: Talk to Your College Kids About Underage Drinking

Sending off a college freshman this fall? As a parent, remember the important role you have in talking to your children about the dangers of drinking.

Father and son talking about underage drinking on a college campus.

Your son or daughter graduated high school and you're now the parent of a newly admitted college freshman—and it won't be long before you drop them off at the dorm and leave them all on their own. Before you do, it's important to make sure your child is fully aware of the risks of college drinking. They can't be overstated.

Related: Tips for Becoming Healthier As A Family

Every year in the U.S., college drinking contributes to:

  • 1,569 accidental deaths, including fatal car crashes
  • 97,000 sexual assaults and date rapes
  • 696,000 assaults by another student who has been drinking

In addition, about 1 in 4 college students report that drinking alcohol—and especially binge drinking—has hurt them academically. They've missed class, done poorly on exams and papers, and received low grades as a result of misusing alcohol.

Your role

The good news is, you still have considerable influence over your young adult's choices, even into the college years. Studies suggest that students who choose not to drink often make that choice because their parents talked with them about the dangers of drinking. Here are a few ideas to approach the conversation:

Speak up

Address the risks of drinking head-on with your child and make your expectations about not using alcohol clear. Zero-tolerance messages appear to be the most effective at keeping kids from drinking in college.

Related: This Habit Kills As Many People As Smoking

Keep talking

The first six weeks of freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking. Even so, keep reinforcing your zero-tolerance stance on underage drinking throughout college. You're showing continued concern for your child's well-being.

Be honest

If your child asks about your past drinking behavior, be honest. Own up to any risks you took—and any negative consequences that resulted. But answer your child's questions in ways that don't suggest underage drinking is okay.

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Sources: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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