University of California, Santa Barbara

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What Parents Should Know


College is a turning point in the relationship between parentor guardian and son or daughter. It is a time when both parties areletting go oftraditional and comfortable roles and looking forward to the future.But, your roleas parent or guardian in the life of your college student continuesto be significant.“We’ve all seen and heard horror stories about deaths and injuriescaused by excessivedrinking on campus,” College Parents Association President RichardM. Flaherty said.“As parents, you are frightened by these stories. You have everyright to be. Studentalcohol abuse can be addressed, just as we have reduced drunkdriving on our nation’sroads. This fight will require college parents, students,universities and theircommunities working together.” It is imperative that parents talk totheir sonsand daughters about the personal and community impact of bingedrinking.


  • Be prepared to initiate the discussion.
  • Whenever possible, exchange information face to face rather than over the phone.
  • Look for and create “teachable moments” such as television news, dramas, books, or newspapers that deal with substance use in college settings.
  • If the teachable moment seems to arise because your son or daughter is intoxicated, do not try to initiate the conversation at that time. Wait until the next day.


  • Inform yourself about alcohol and the alcohol scene on campus; talk to your son or daughter about it.
  • Make it clear that under-age consumption of alcohol and driving after drinking are both against the law.
  • Openly and clearly express concerns about underage drinking and dangerous alcohol consumption (e.g., drinking games).
  • Remind students that over-consumption of alcohol is toxic to the human body and can even lead to death from alcohol poisoning.
  • Make sure your son or daughter is prepared to intervene when a classmate is in trouble with alcohol.
  • Encourage students to stand up for their right to a safe academic environment that enhances intellectual growth.
  • Discuss ways to refuse a drink.
  • Set clear and realistic expectations about academic performance. The following table describes the relationship between the average number of drinks consumed per week by college students and grade point average. Source: (1996 National CORE Survey)

    A = 3.6 Drinks per week
    B = 5.5 Drinks per week
    C = 7.6 Drinks per week
    D = 10.6 Drinks per week
  • Encourage your son or daughter to get involved in campus or community volunteer work.
  • Don’t give your son or daughter too much spending money.
  • Refrain from glamorizing any alcohol-fueled exploits you may have had in college.
  • If there is problem drinking in your family, be sure your son or daughter is aware that s/he is at risk for developing a problem, too. (Research shows that there is a genetic link.)
  • Foster a strong, trusting relationship and be available to talk and, more importantly, to listen.

Although the media coverage of recentalcohol-related deaths among college students has focused thespotlight on collegiatesubstance abuse, college binge drinking has been a public healthdilemma for decades.The media attention is a good step toward fostering discussion andchange. Togetherwe can make a difference.

If you become concerned that your son or daughter is developinga problem, contact the UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program.

For more information about responding to students who affectedby alcohol and drugabuse refer to Responding to Distressed Students Resource Guide

General Information & Appointments: (805) 893-5013 
Online Assessments:

Adapted from College Parents of America, MADD, and Syracuse University