It is important for parents to recognize that there will be “positive” reasons (at least from the student’s perspective) for why they choose to drink. If parents only choose to focus discussions on the negative aspects of drinking, ignoring the positive aspects, they run the risk of losing credibility in their students eyes. Also, you need to help your student put these “positive” motivations in perspective so that they do not start to drink because of them. Here are some of the major ones that research has shown impact drinking behavior.


Some students believe that drinking is one way to celebrate a special occasion. For example, a friend may suggest to your student that they have a few beers after finishing an important assignment. It is important that you talk with your student about alternative ways of celebrating such as: (1) suggesting that your student go shopping for something special (e.g., clothes, music, sporting goods); (2) suggesting an outing, such as dinner, that would include a few special friends; and/or (3) offering to have friends over for a small dinner party (without alcohol). Encourage your student to tell you about significant things that happen in his or her life and then try to help them celebrate positively.


Some students believe that drinking alcohol adds to sexual experiences, but it is important to warn your student about the dangers in mixing alcohol and sex. First, because alcohol impairs judgment, students may do things that they may regret later on, such as have sex with someone that, if sober, they would choose not to, or engaging in sexual activities they might not when sober. Second, there is considerable scientific evidence to indicate that students are much more likely to
engage in unprotected intercourse if they have been drinking, thereby increasing the chances of an unintended pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infections.


One reason students give for drinking is that alcohol helps reduce worries. Parents should talk with their student to find out about what worries them and help the student directly confront these worries in a realistic fashion. Parents can also point out the need to confront problems directly rather than avoid them and note that the problem does not go away because you drink (and, in fact, it may become worse).


Another reason students give for drinking is that they believe that alcohol helps make it easier to express feelings or talk with people to whom they are attracted. Parents need to be sensitive to how difficult it is for students to communicate in a new environment where they are unlikely to know anybody. Parents should point out that while often releasing inhibitions, alcohol actually could cloud judgments, making students think that they are communicating better when, in fact, they are not.

NOTES: While alcohol is associated with sexual assault, it does not cause a perpetrator to commit sexual violence and drinking does not make it the fault of the victim. There is a difference between regretting sexual activity someone chose to engage in while drinking, and having something done to someone that they did not consent to. Often times alcohol interferes with communication about what is okay and what is not okay sexually, but we know that sexual assault is not a miscommunication but a deliberate choice on the perpetrator’s part. Further, it is important to understand that the data shows that perpetrators of sexual assault often target people who are incapacitated by alcohol and/or use alcohol to render their victims incapacitated and unable to fight back.


Another important reason why students drink is the influence of friends. Your student may feel pressured to drink. This pressure can be direct, as in the form of someone handing them a beer at a party, or it can be indirect, such as when they want to be part of a group and that group experiments with alcohol. Parents CANNOT choose their student’s friends for them. However, parents can help their students understand the dynamics of peer pressure and stress the importance
of being their own person. Finally, parents and students can talk about situations that could come up, such as a friend introducing alcohol at a party, so that students can anticipate how to react.


Often the highlight of the day after drinking are the post-party war stories about who drank the most shots, who blacked-out, and who had the worst hangover. Although some students view these outcomes as badges of honor, our findings suggest that hangovers, black-outs, and heavy drinking are associated with accidents, unsafe sex, arrests, missed work, failed courses, and general victimization.


Many students believe that alcohol will help them get in a better mood. They should know that it is normal to feel sad and stressed at times. They should also find alternate ways to regulate their mood without alcohol or other drugs (e.g., caffeine). Exercise is always a good alternative to help improve one’s mood. It is also important to explain to your student that the “high” from alcohol is accompanied by extreme lows as well.


Some students get bored and turn to alcohol as a means of getting excitement out of their lives. To confront this, you can offer alternatives that your student can pursue. Some examples include getting involved in sports, hobbies, music, dance, games, reading, and school clubs. They could also become involved in volunteer activities that are associated with causes they really care about, such as protecting the environment or promoting literacy. This is a good way to meet others with similar interests and also to feel good about themselves. Many students go to parties or have parties as a means of entertainment. Drinking frequently occurs in such settings and it is important that you provide suggestions on how students can enjoy themselves without alcohol.


  1. Try to meet three new people.
  2. Try to find individuals who share common interests other than drinking.
  3. Try to think about topics for conversation before going to the party to keep the focus of the conversation away from drinking or not drinking.