Suggestions for Parents on Approaching Alcohol Consumption and the College Experience

Contributor: Article Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

DeathtoStock_Wired8As a parent or guardian, you have likely had countless rewarding and challenging experiences with your child. As your child grows and transitions into an adolescent and into adulthood, your parenting experiences have changed and evolved over time as well.

Perhaps one of the more challenging experiences as a parent is learning how to support your child, as they become an adult. In many ways, your relationship and the way you parent will be adjusted as well. As your navigates adulthood and a newfound freedom, they will begin to make decisions independently from you.

This can be a difficult transition for many parents as they learn to let their loved one go into the world. The part of you that yearns to protect and shield your child will always be there, yet you have to let your son or daughter begin to blossom and learn how to grow into his or her own person.

The Challenges Along the Way

Whether your adult child is transitioning into the college life or embarking on an adventure of career, travel, or independent living, you have likely mulled over all the possible challenges and scenarios they might face along the way.

A concern and worry on the minds of many parents is how their child might face the temptation of alcohol use during this transitional period of their lives. With new surroundings, responsibilities, social circles, and the lack of a family structure, young adults may be more prone to engaging in riskier behaviors.

Party Scenes

DeathtoStock_Wired10Added to this is the stigma that often paints the picture of what college should be like: Party Scenes that make the “college life”. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about four out of five college students drink alcohol, and about half of college students who drink, also engage in binge drinking [1].

While drinking during college may seem like a “right of passage”, the consequences of consuming alcohol can be detrimental and fatal.

Encouraging College Kids to Make Wise Decisions

As a parent, this information undoubtedly does not sit well. What are helpful ways to support your child during this time in their life while still honoring their transition into adulthood? While the decision to drink alcohol is ultimately the responsibility of your child, there are many ways you can offer support to encourage them to make wise choices for themselves.

Thankfully, parental influence does play a tremendous role in a adolescent/young adult’s decision to drink or not. Research has demonstrated that parents who have communicated with their teen about alcohol have set a protective measure against underage drinking [2].

Supporting Your Loved One During College

DeathtoStock_Wired5As a parent, do not underestimate the positive role you can play in your child’s life, especially as they transition into adulthood. Here are some helpful suggestions that might assist you in supporting your loved one through this transition:

Keep the communication channels open:

Before your teen heads to college, sit down for a meaningful discussion about alcohol. Voice your opinions, expectations, and concerns in a loving and supportive way. Help your teen feel as though they can talk to you about any issue they may be facing or approach you for advise at any time.

Set appropriate boundaries:

It is important that your teen knows where you stand in regards to alcohol use. What policies might you act on should your child engage in underage drinking? Set these rules early on and be sure to stay consistent.

Live by example:

Your teen is watching you closely and likely observing your habits and lifestyle. Do your choices match the words that you share with your child? This is a great opportunity to examine your own patterns and behaviors and discern the type of model you are for your child.

You may feel that your child is resisting you during their transition into adulthood, but by keeping communication channels open, setting appropriate boundaries, and living by your convictions, you are affirming a strong foundation from which they will spread their wings.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you a parent of a young adult? How have you supported their transition into adulthood?


  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “College Drinking”, Accessed 12 Jan 2015
  2. Foley, K.L.; Altman, D.; Durant, R.H.; and Wolfson, M. Adults’ approval and adolescents’ alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health 35(4):7–26, 2004.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 12th, 2015
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