Most students have heard comments like “kids getting drunk is terrible” from other adults and from the media. You should NOT start your conversation with statements such as this. Keep your comments short and remember that you don’t have to say everything. This is the beginning of a conversation. It probably is best to begin with a statement that conveys open-mindedness
and then ask your questions and their experiences. Talk about your own experiences and opinions about how they have changed over the years. As you tend to open-up, so will your student. Keep distinctions between facts and opinions: “My opinion is...This opinion is based on facts. This opinion is based on these experiences. This opinion is based on these observations.”

Ask your student what they think. Listen while trying to understand, without defensiveness. Suspend critical judgment. Even if your student says what you want to hear (e.g., “I don’t drink now, let alone drink to get drunk”) don’t think that this means you don’t have to talk. Your goal is not just to reassure the student through talking but to help expand your student’s thinking. You want to help them deal with the range of experiences that your student is likely to encounter in college.

Try to think of thought provoking questions that can be asked in a supportive, non-threatening way. For example: Do you know kids who drink a lot? How has it affected them? Have you ever been offered alcohol by someone you knew? (If so) what did you say? (If not) what would you say? What if someone really pushed you? What would you say if they said... Is there another side to this view? Do you see any risks? Do you have any concerns? Ask questions; don’t lecture! This is probably the single most important aspect of communication. People like to talk about themselves and their opinions. People like to explore logic and details.

They do not like to be told what to think!

Be Prepared

to Answer Questions About Your Own Behavior

If you truly establish a dialogue with them then they will probably ask you questions about your past behavior. Did you drink alcohol when you were a student? If it was okay for you to do, why isn’t it okay for me to do? Did you ever get drunk? You need to be prepared to answer such questions and in ways that the student will not decide that it is permissible to drink.

Before initiating a discussion with your student you should take some time to think about the kinds of questions they are likely to ask you and what your responses will be.