Start the Conversation: College Age

  • Model healthy choices at home. Your young adult still pays attention to what you say and do. Your words and actions influence them in many ways every day. Give them good examples to follow when they come home during school breaks.
  • Remain calm if your young adult is using drugs or alcohol. Remember that communication is key. Ask your young adult why they are using and help them problem solve. For example, if your young adult tried marijuana or alcohol to relieve stress, recommend healthier options like exercise, meditation or journal writing. If you are concerned about their health or safety, call the free and confidential Washington Recovery Helpline 1-866-789-1511.
  • Set clear and realistic expectations about academic performance. Studies conducted nationally show that partying may contribute as much to a student's decline in grades as the difficulty of his or her academic work. If students know their parents expect sound academic work, they are likely to be more devoted to their studies and have less time to get in trouble with alcohol and other drugs.
  • Encourage them to intervene when classmates are in trouble with alcohol or other drugs. All too often, an unconscious student is left alone when their friends either don't realize the danger, or worry about getting into trouble if they call for help. Washington State law protects bystanders, and anyone experiencing an alcohol or drug overdose, from prosecution for having alcohol or a controlled substance.  In a life-threatening emergency, your young adult and their peers will not be fined or arrested when they call for help. 
  • Tell students to stand up for their right to a safe campus. Students who do not drink or use drugs can be affected by the behavior of those who do, ranging from interrupted study time to assault or unwanted sexual advances. Encourage your student to learn campus policies, and seek information and assistance from Resident Advisors, counselors or peers.
  • Ask your young adult about the alcohol and other drug scene on campus. Students grossly exaggerate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. Students are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink up to what they perceive to be the norm. Correcting misperceptions about alcohol and other drug use could influence personal decisions to use. Remember, data tells us that most college students who use alcohol or marijuana do so in moderation.
  • Avoid tales of drinking exploits from your own college years. Entertaining students with stories of drinking back in "the good old days" normalizes unhealthy and abnormal behavior. You don't want your young adult to think you are giving them permission to drink at dangerous levels.
  • Encourage your young adult to volunteer in community work. In addition to structuring free time, volunteerism provides students with opportunities to develop job-related skills and to gain valuable experience. Helping others also gives students a broader outlook and a healthier perspective on the opportunities they enjoy. Volunteer work on campus helps students further connect with their school, increasing the likelihood of staying in college.
  • Explain the consequences. Remind your student that violating the law could hurt their college experience. In most cases, students with charges for minor in possession (MIP) or driving under the influence (DUI) lose their scholarships, financial aid, driver’s license and, depending on the severity of the situation, can even be kicked out.   

Explain to your young adult the health and safety reasons for waiting until they are at least 21 to use alcohol or marijuana. Clarify that it is never safe for anyone to abuse alcohol or drugs, or to drive after using them.

For more information, visit College Drinking Prevention.