What Parents Should Say to Their Students about Alcohol

Many times, parents stop talking to their children about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs once their sons or daughters leave home to go to college. But their problems and risks don't just go away when kids grow up. Here are some suggestions for communicating with your college-aged student:

  • Start by saying, "Don't drink or use at all." For people under 21, drinking is illegal in town and on campus. Consequences for underage drinking on campus include fines, probation, substance use classes and assessments, and possible suspension. The penalties for other illegal drugs is even more severe.
  • Focus on the risks. Students may not realize that they can die from drinking too much alcohol too fast. Being under the influence of alcohol can lead to a whole host of risky choices including drinking and driving, unplanned sexual activities, fights, and illegal behavior.
  • If your student drinks, emphasize safety and low-risk choices.
  • Open the conversation early and keep it going. Ask, "What's the party scene like?" If your student is a non-drinker, ask, "How are you going to continue to abstain?" If you child is a drinker, ask, "How are you going to keep it safe?"
  • Challenge your student's perception of the college drinking norm. The college environment is often portrayed as a wild, heavy-drinking, low consequence environment. In actuality, most UNCW student don't drink or make low risk choices regarding alcohol. For more accurate information about the UNCW environment, visit our statistics page and share it with your student.

Looking for more? Read our brochure for parents of first year students (PDF)