Monday, October 22, 2012

Is College Too Late To Talk To Your Child About Drinking?

When I was driving home from visiting my family for the holidays, I saw a billboard on the side of the road. It showed a kid with a backpack and asked, “He's in college now. Is it too late to talk to him about drinking?” A lot of people would say 'yes, you should have talked to him about that earlier' or 'yes, he already knows what to do and what not to do'. I can see why they would say that, but my answer is a resounding 'No!'  It's definitely not too late to talk to your child about drinking; in fact, even if you've talked to your child about it before, you need to have the talk again. Why do I say this?

When I went away to college, it was the first time I was 'out on my own'. I no longer had a curfew; I could come and go as I pleased. I no longer had to clean my room if I didn't want to. I could go out on a 'school night', and I could wear whatever I wanted without my parents making me go change. In other words, I had complete freedom. I, along with about 5,000 other freshmen. My parents weren't very strict on me, so I had a good idea how to conduct myself responsibly. Others, however, were not so lucky. They got what I referred to as 'freshman party syndrome'; they would party on any night of the week, get drunk off their behinds and drag themselves into bed at obscene hours of the night, if they made it home that night at all! In other words, they were 'free' for the first time and ended up going crazy because they didn't know how to handle it. The lessons they'd previously been taught about the dangers of underage drinking went right out the window! This is one reason parents of college students need to talk to their children about drinking-because the pressure is going to be completely different from what they have been through before, and they need to know how to handle it.
Another important reason to talk to your kids about alcohol deals with academics. Freshmen would miss class because they were so hung over that they couldn't get out of bed. It's hard to get good grades if you never go to class! If your child's college is like mine (NC State), this sort of thing can get them thrown out of school. For example, I once dated a guy who got kicked out of school because he didn't have the grades to stay in his department (engineering) or to get into any other department. Sophomores can't just float around without a major, so the school kicked him out. They figure that if a student won't do the work and make the grade, there is a long wait list of students who will. Other colleges have strict rules about student conduct and won't hesitate to toss a student who gets drunk and causes trouble! I don't have to tell you why this is a problem.
Finally, there is the issue of money. Again, this is the issue of not being able to handle their new freedom. Even if they buy the cheap stuff, it mounts up. To quote one parent I know, you're not paying for your kid to get their degree in vodka! Sending your kids to college is already expensive enough without having them spend it on booze instead of books.
These are only a few of the reasons parents of college students need to talk to them about the dangers of drinking. Even if the child has been responsible about it before, the environment and pressures of college are completely different from anything they've ever experienced. They need to know how to handle themselves responsibly in order to make the most of their education (and your money!) and succeed. I don't mean to sound preachy, but I've seen this happen to a lot of awfully smart students and wouldn't want your kids to go through the same thing.


  1. I would agree, college is not too late if you've never discussed it with your child before that point; however, chances are it needs to be addressed first when they are entering high school. Then again before they go to college.

  2. See, I personally think that it is too late at that point. I mean, like you said if you have never broached the issue with them prior to them heading off to college, and you want to make an attempt at getting thru that *late teens I know everything mentality* then yeah give it a go. But you really should have brought it up before they even got into high school.