If you have a teen headed to college this year, you’ve probably thought about college drinking. Studies show that more college students are binge drinking than they did 20 or 30 years ago, and being thought of as ‘cool’ is one of the reasons.

But this heavy drinking is not inevitable. In most colleges, most students – around 60% – don’t binge.

There are things you can do as a parent to support healthy choices. The most important is to talk with your student.

  • Listen to their concerns about college.
  • Set clear expectations. College is a major investment! Emphasize that alcohol can interfere with learning and your student’s future plans.
  • Remind them that it’s illegal to consume alcohol before 21 in all 50 states. Alcohol can lead to problems that can last far beyond college.
  • Encourage them to get involved. Students are drawn to drinking because they think it will lead to social status. Getting involved in a sport, a club, or volunteer work can help boost their social lives in a healthy way.
  • Talk with them about what to do when things go wrong. How do they plan to get out of uncomfortable situations? What will they do if they want to study and a roommate wants to party? Talking through these potential problems can help them be ready for unexpected problems.

These conversations are most effective before the student leaves for their freshman year, but it is never too late to support healthy choices and remind your student they have a caring adult they can talk to.

The summer months are when many tweens try alcohol or other drugs for the first time. Studies show that teens going to college often begin binge drinking the summer after they graduate high school. If your teen or tween has the summer off, it’s important to encourage them to stay busy with healthy summer activities.

Encourage your teens and tweens to be active and involved, whether it’s through volunteer work, a fun program at their local library, or a summer sports league. Feeling like they matter in the community helps prevent youth – especially boys – from making dangerous decisions.

This article from The Daily Beast talks about Chiara de Blasio and Zac Efron, two young people who’ve recently gone public with their struggles with addiction. They’re not alone.

Studies show that most addicts, nationwide, first use their drug of choice in middle school. The seeds of addiction can be set very early. That’s why it’s important to talk early and often about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. We know that talking with kids helps them make good choices.

Here are some good ways to start.


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