ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — Even though they might be taller than you and often assert their independence, college students look to parents for guidance on big decisions.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, parents who talk about the negative consequences of alcohol with their college-age kids can prevent some underage drinking.

Jonathan Dixon — a marriage and family therapist at Alpha and Omega Clinic, which integrates psychology with the Catholic faith — offered the following suggestions on how to speak effectively with your college student:

— Be honest. Parents worry, that’s natural, said Dixon. “It’s scary to launch your children into the world, but it’s important to let yourself be vulnerable and to share your concerns,” he said. “Tell them that you’re worried about them.” Like in all forms of communication, be honest.

— Be open. “You don’t necessarily need to talk about your own experiences, but invite your child to be a part of your world,” said Dixon. Ask them what their worries and fears are and be open to hearing them. “That can be a bridge for them to talk about their fears and to open up.”

— Be practical. Navigating drinking is a normal thing that teenagers go through, said Dixon. There’s a lot of peer pressure and fear for them to work out, and that’s important for parents to understand.

— Be a source of wisdom. Help your child remember that “happiness is an inside job,” said Dixon. They will experience peer pressure, but remind them they will ultimately only be happy if they make their own decisions. Remind them they don’t have to give decision-making power to other people.


Scott is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.