Any parent who reads the newspaper or watches the news reads or sees about tragic stories of alcohol abuse. Over 10,000 Americans lost their lives in drunk driving accidents in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
As a resource, advisor and advocate for more than 35 million households with current or future college parents throughout the United States, College Parents of America shares parents’ concerns. It can be life saving to talk with students about the impact of drinking on their lives and their responsibilities to themselves.
In cooperation with William DeJong, Director of the Higher Education Center, and Linda Devine, Assistant Dean of Student Life at the University of Oregon, College Parents of America created eight talking points fro family conversations about alcohol.
- Set clear and realistic expectations regarding academic performance. If students know their parents expect sound academic work, they are likely to devote to their studies and have less time to get in trouble with alcohol.
- Stress to students that alcohol is toxic and excessive consumption can fatally poison them. This is not a scare tactic. The fact is students die every year from alcohol poisoning. Discourage drinking games and keg stands. Parents should suggest their student looks after their friends in excessive drinking situations, too. Be the one who calls an Uber.
- Tell students to intervene when classmates are in trouble with alcohol.Nothing is more tragic than an unconscious student being left to die while others either fail to recognize that the student is in jeopardy. Thus, failing to call for help due to fear of getting the student in trouble.
- Tell students to stand up for their right to a safe academic environment. Students who do not drink can be affected by the behavior of those who do, ranging from interrupted study time to assault or unwanted sexual advances. Students can confront these problems directly by discussing them with the offender. If that fails, they should notify the housing director or other residence hall staff.
- Know the alcohol scene on campus and talk to students about it. Students grossly exaggerate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. A University of Oregon study reported students believed 96 percent of their peers drink alcohol at least once a week, when the actual rate was 52 percent. Students are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink up to what they perceive is the norm. Confronting misperceptions about alcohol use is vital.
- Avoid tales of drinking exploits from your own college years. Entertaining students with stories of drinking back in “the good old days” normalizes what, even then, was abnormal behavior. It also appears to give parental approval to dangerous alcohol consumption.
- Encourage your student to volunteer in community work. In addition to structuring free time, volunteerism provides students with opportunities to develop job-related skills and to gain valuable experience. Helping others also gives students a broader outlook and a healthier perspective on the opportunities they enjoy. Volunteer work on campus helps students further connect with their school, increasing the likelihood of staying in college.
- Make it clear – Underage alcohol consumption and alcohol-impaired driving are against the law. Parents should make it clear that they do not condone breaking the law. Openly and clearly express disapproval of underage drinking and dangerous alcohol consumption. And, if parents drink, they should present a positive role model in the responsible use of alcohol.
Talk with your student about alcohol. While parents can’t actively monitor students away from home, they can have discuss and listen. Open communication can do more than help shape lives. It can save lives.