Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Talking to Your Son Prior to College May Limit Drinking

Your opinion matters. Even when your son is busily packing for college, daydreaming about a new life beyond the confines of home and parental boundaries, your input on what he may or may not—or should or should not—experience in terms of alcohol use when he first leaves home has a significant impact on the choices he makes, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. A simple talk about how to deal with the world of drinking in college can help him to make better choices and potentially help him avoid the pitfalls of binge drinking and alcohol abuse.

Michael Cleveland is a co-author of the study that discovered the efficacy of a simple parental chat about alcohol. He’s also a research assistant professor at the Prevention Research Center at Pennsylvania State University. Said Cleveland, “The research shows parents do influence a teen’s decisions about drinking, even at this age.”

The Talk

The key to successfully encouraging kids to avoid alcohol abuse in college is parental understanding of what to say—and what not to say. Parents in the study received handbooks on how to address the issue of alcohol abuse prior to broaching the subject with their kids. They were advised to:

  • Let their kids know what to expect in terms of exposure to binge drinking opportunities
  • Share the physiological effects of alcohol
  • Provide pointers on how to get out of these situations gracefully and make smart choices
  • Let their kids know the risks associated with binge drinking and alcohol abuse (e.g., arrest for underage drinking, alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy)
  • Encourage their kids to focus on studies, extracurricular activities, and positive friendships

Avoiding discussions about near-misses in your own life or any stories about your own drug and alcohol abuse is recommended.

The other key is to have the talk before he goes to school. No noted benefits or altered decision-making were noted for teens whose parents waited to talk to them until the fall of their freshman year or later.

Dealing With Your Child’s Drinking Before College

If your son struggles with binge drinking or alcohol abuse during high school, it’s unlikely that he’ll avoid the problem in college. Help him to get back on track before he leaves the house by enrolling him in an effective teen-specific, experiential treatment program. At Muir Wood, we offer intensive rehabilitation for boys that focuses on helping them to develop positive behaviors and perspectives. Call now for more information, or download our admissions packet today.