From A Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol

When your son or daughter begins college it is likely that they will form entirely new social groups. The most influential reason why new students drink is because of social pressures.  Friends can influence your son or daughter in two major ways. First, there is active social influence, which occurs when a friend explicitly suggests that your son or daughter engage in some behavior (e.g., “Let’s go get drunk”). Second, there is passive influence. such as when they think everyone is doing it and that it is an acceptable thing to do. 

Part of reducing social pressure is not only helping your son or daughter resist active influence attempts but also helping your student to put into perspective the fact that:

  1. Not everyone is necessarily doing it,
  2. Even if people were, this does not make it right or a good thing to do, and
  3. Friends may respect your son or daughter for not drinking.

There may be times when your son or daughter may be put in situations where he or she is pressured by one or more peers to perform behaviors she would rather not engage in. For example, he or she may be pressured by someone to have a drink when your son or daughter doesn’t want to. Students need to develop skills to resist such pressure and affirm their own values, beliefs, and attitudes.

Students need to develop adequate responses to such pressure lines. What they need most are simple but effective “one liners” that will diffuse the pressure without making a big scene or issue about it. It is difficult for parents to provide such responses to the student because parents usually are not aware of the current language that students use with one another.  It is probably more useful for parents to tell their students that they will probably be exposed to pressures to drink and for the student to try to think of short yet effective responses to pressure attempts.

Often such simple phrases as “It’s just not for me, it’s not what I want” or “I don’t drink” will work quite effectively. We have evaluated a wide range of possible responses and students clearly prefer simple, straightforward “outs” to the pressure situation. Encourage the student to think about such “one liners” beforehand to be prepared if he or she finds himself or herself in an uncomfortable situation.

A Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol
By Rob Turrisi, Ph.D.
Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University
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Note: No part of this text can be used or reproduced without written permission from the author.