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Parents: Talk to Your College Kids About 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.

Mom dropping off her son, first day of college. How to talk to your college kids about drinking

You're 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! But 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—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: You still have considerable influence over your child'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 the 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 OK.

How do you talk to your kids about sensitive issues such a drinking? Tell us in the comments.


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

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