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Can you make a difference?

As parents, you can make a difference. You can prevent your sons and daughters from becoming yet another tragic statistic. Too many parents feel that they cannot influence young adults. Time and time again, parents say:

"What can I say now? They're grown adults." or "There's just no use. They'll do what they want anyway and don't care what we say." Such statements grossly underestimate the influence that parents can have in providing information that can shape their sons and daughters' behaviors. However, parents will be much more effective and influential if they remember that talking to their sons and daughters about alcohol is a process, not an event. In other words, discussing alcohol is not a onetime conversation - it's a series of conversations that occur over a period of time.

As a result, it's not expected that you'll browse this website once and have a masterful idea of all the information you'll need to have a convincing talk with your college students. The rest of this website is filled with ways for you to talk to your sons and daughters about the dangers of alcohol throughout the entire process. As you continually talk to them about alcohol, feel free to visit this site as often as you need to learn helpful strategies and strong communication skills, and to gain additional helpful information.


Talking with Your Sons and Daughters

Talking with loved ones about important matters can be emotional and difficult.

This is true whether the conversation is about alcohol or other new college experiences, such as managing finances, attending class, or balancing academics with social activities.

Below are some typical responses parents get from their sons and daughters when talking about difficult subjects. If you notice your sons and daughters (or even yourself) reverting to any of these, collect yourself and stay on topic.


The effectiveness of your communication about alcohol is reflective of the relationship you have with your sons and daughters. Is there a pattern of open communication in your relationship? Have you discussed difficult issues with them (i.e. sex, drugs, friends, and especially alcohol use)?

Common Challenges

The Outburst

The person feeling anger responds with short, highly charged, emotional explosions, usually blaming the other person. Afterward, there is calmness, and the person who displayed the outburst hopes all is forgiven. He or she would have you believe the outburst is simply a way of letting off steam and that it's nothing personal.

The Silent Treatments

The angry person turns cold and punishes the "transgressor" through silence and obvious rejection.

Bringing Up the Past

The angry person brings up past events that were hurtful and directs attention away from the current issues to that of rehashing the past. The issue causing the anger is lost as attention turns to past injustices.

Social Aggression

This angry person does not state why he or she is angry but rather turns the anger into aggressive actions, making hurtful or cynical remarks, oftentimes in social settings. When asked what is wrong, the response is usually, "Nothing". The other person has no idea why he or she is under attack.

Using Minor Irritations

The angry person repeatedly starts fights and arguments over minor irritations (e.g. forgetting to turn the lights off, forgetting to close doors). The minor problems are cause for constant criticism. The real issue causing the anger is masked.

Collecting Social Allies

The angry person mobilizes support for his or her side. He or she talks about how victimized he/she is to other people. This person is very good at getting other people involved and putting them in the middle of the conflict. This can also be evidenced through a quick sentence during a conversation such as, "Well, Jason doesn't think so. His parents don't seem to care."

Communication Strategies


Permit your sons and daughters to speak without interruption. Listen to what they say, and don't go into the conversation with an agenda. Be open and receptive to what's said and respond to the things that your'e hearing - not the things you think need to be talked about.

Stay Focused

Limit discussion to only the issue at hand. Make good eye contact and show that you are listening.

Choose A Good Time

Choose an optimal time to bring up and discuss issues. Don't do it when either of you is rushed or has another commitment at the moment.

Agree to Disengage

Agree to temporarily disengage from interacting if either person becomes emotional or punitive. Wait until both of you can talk in a calm, direct fashion.When the discussion turns into an argument or becomes emotional, explain that it's best to calm down and start the discussion later.

Avoid Vulnerabilities

Judiciously avoid talking about vulnerabilities or emotional sensitivities. If conflict arises, it's sometimes tempting to point out past behavior.However, now is not the time; it ruins communication and ultimately hurts your relationship with your sons and daughters.

Admit Errors

Be willing to admit you are wrong and apologize.No one is perfect. If you're willing to acknowledge a mistake or be self-critical, students see that as a sign of strength and approachability.Saying you're sorry is a way of showing that you care. Don't blame others and accept responsibility for your actions.

Use Open-Ended Questions

College-aged students are notorious for one-word responses. Using closed-ended questions encourages those. Instead, use questions that begin with words like, "What do you think...?" or "How...?".

Verbalize Respect

Whenever you can and whenever it's appropriate, convey respect to your sons and daughters. Phrases like "I'm proud of you the way you..." or "I've always admired that about you." are great ways to confer respect. By conferring respect, you are acknowledging that your sons and daughters are becoming adults while you are developing an adult relationship with them.

Appeal To Common Goals

Your sons and daughters need to be reminded that you're on their side. Because they're adults and moving on to college, family rules are more difficult to enforce. Setting one-sided rules and punishments is counter-productive. Engaging in a dialogue about common goals and how each of you can help attain these goals will be more effective to your sons and daughters' transitions into adulthood than rules and punishments would be.

Make the Other Feel Better

When opportunities arise, don't hesitate to compliment your sons and daughters. This is also a good time to verbalize respect. When your sons and daughters feel good about themselves, they're more likely to open up and confide in you. This also shows them that you believe in and trust them.

Avoid Debate

Sometimes conversations become structured so that people must defend their positions. The entire conversation degenerates into a mini-debate in which each person is looking for weaknesses in the other person's argument. Try to keep the conversation productive and goal-directed. Don't get side-tracked by the details of each other's statements.

Only Winners

When conflict arises, the healthy outcome is two winners. A person's natural tendency is to fight to win. Remember, talking about alcohol with your sons and daughters should not be a fight or a battle of wills or a conflict with opposing sides.It should be a discussion about values, safety, love, and respect. When this happens, there are only winners - regardless of what is said. When a parent goes into a conversation with this in mind, it creates the kind of environment where there will be only winners.


We truly believe that what we learn from research is true:

Parents have a great capacity to influence their sons and daughters' drinking behavior.
The 3 parts to this model are key characteristics in successful dialogue.

Feel free to review or print any of the material in this site. We want you to use it however will help you successfully talk with your sons and daughters about drinking at college.