Mason Family Flash

Talk to your student about making healthy choices

Although your student may be away from home now, you can still encourage them to make healthy and responsible choices around alcohol and drugs.

Talking with your student about alcohol is not as difficult as you may think. Try using a non-judgmental tone to ask questions to help your student reflect on their choices. For example, “What’s your plan for getting to and from the party?” versus “Make sure you have a designated driver.” Or “What happens to students if they are caught drinking?” versus “You know you will get into a lot of trouble if you are caught.” You may find that your student is more receptive to engaging in this type of conversation when using this approach.

As you may have experienced, “lectures” tend to shut down communication with your student. Use open-ended questions that help your student think and problem-solve out loud about how they plan to handle situations regarding alcohol at college.

Some conversation-starters include:

While most students drink responsibly, high-risk drinking is an alarming problem on college campuses. Parents and family members can help especially during those critical first weeks. Here are some resources with information and talking points for starting a family discussion about college drinking:

 Other ideas to consider:

  • Encourage your student to research the impact of alcohol on the body and one’s overall wellbeing.
  • Acknowledge your student’s rights and responsibilities to make decisions and also point out the consequences associated with those decisions (including family, university, financial and legal consequences)
  • Inform your student of any family history of substance abuse and, if so, the associated risk for developing substance-related problems.
  • Ask your student about their goals and suggest he or she reflect on how choices can impact those goals.
  • Be selective about sharing your own past substance use. The “wild and crazy” stories tend to glamorize drinking and may end up encouraging your student to continue the “family tradition” of partying hard.
  • If you have a concern, let your student know explicitly and directly, “I am concerned about your alcohol and/or drug use.” You can also encourage your student to consult a health professional and/or campus resources like the Student Support and Advocacy Center and Student Health Services to discuss further.

We encourage you to talk with your student about healthy relationships, drug and alcohol use, and sexual health. For more information on resources provided to students and families, visit or contact the Student Support and Advocacy Center at (703) 993-3686.

Kathryn Walker
Assistant Director
Student Support and Advocacy Center