Talking With Your Student About Alcohol

You have probably heard a lot about drinking and drug use on college campuses. Fortunately, most Cornell students tend to drink in moderation or not at all, and even fewer use illegal drugs. At the same time, misuse of alcohol and other drugs causes or contributes to significant harm for a number of students and those around them. “High-risk drinking” — drinking too much, too quickly, or too often— can have serious consequences such as alcohol poisoning, accidental injuries, and chronic disease. More common consequences are less dire, but still significant, including poor academic performance, feeling sick, and damaging friendships. 
Even though college students are young adults, parents and family members can still play an important role in helping their young adult children make good decisions in relation to alcohol and other drugs. 
Talk With Your College Student About Alcohol & Other Drug Use Before Coming to Cornell. 

Although the drinking age in New York is 21, students benefit from having conversations about alcohol much earlier. Now is an ideal time to talk about your family’s and your college student’s values, goals, and priorities; and a great opportunity to set the precedent for open communication during the college years. Research shows that conversations with parents and guardians during the summer before college help students make better, safer decisions about alcohol once they arrive on campus. 
To help your college student avoid legal, health, and/or academic problems, we encourage your family to take some time to talk with your college student before they arrive at Cornell. It's important to discuss your expectations, the risks associated with drinking alcohol and using other drugs, and the choices first-year students make as they take on new degrees of independence. Although you may have had conversations in the past, it is helpful to have an ongoing dialogue rather than a one-time talk. 
Inaccurate expectations about college drinking are common.

Stories in the media and from friends can make college seem like one long drinking party. Those images are largely inaccurate, but they lead some students to expect that most of their college peers will drink heavily. This expectation is often reinforced by the visibility of heavy drinking and the relative invisibility of moderate drinking or non-drinking activities. Students are more likely to notice the loud drunken party in their entryway than the laid-back gathering next door. Families can be especially helpful in debunking this idea. 
Students benefit from knowing family histories.

Many factors affect how someone reacts to alcohol, and genetics is an important one. Some families have a history of strong reactions to drinking or alcohol dependence of alcohol use disorder (alcoholism). It is important that students have this information in mind as they make decisions about their own alcohol use. 

Support for recovery is available.

If your college student is in recovery from alcohol or other substances, consider the campus and community resources section of this alcohol and other drug services and resources page. For students who are part of 12-step communities, Cornell campus Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are hosted weekly and are open to all. There are also friends and family Al-Anon Meetings.

Students and their families can make plans to avoid negative consequences.

Families can help their students make plans for less risky social behaviors that will avoid negative consequences due to use of alcohol and other drugs. Discussing alcohol as a family can help students better understand the reasons behind their own decisions, develop strategies for how to decline a drink, engage in strategies to reduce harm if they do drink, and plan for how to navigate relationships with friends and roommates who may choose to drink.