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Dear Dr. JPL,
My teen is going off to college and I am aware that underage drinking will take place. How do I explain to her that while I don’t condone underage drinking, that I would like for her to be safe?
Preparing your teen for her college experience can be a great way to bond. Consistent conversation about the road ahead is important. Discussions about safety are, of course, paramount. It is important to communicate clearly your expectations. Be honest and open about your concerns. It is also helpful to discuss the college’s policy on underage drinking. Many teens don’t realize that most schools have a zero tolerance policy. This means that any underage individual caught drinking can be immediately expelled from the school.
One thing I always recommend to collegians is that they set up a safety support system with each other. Just as I coach parents to set up a code word with their teens, I also suggest that collegians set up a code word with their friends. Specifically I suggest that coeds establish a code word they can text to a friend that means that they need help. I also recommend that collegians install GPS apps such as Apple’s Find My Friends or apps like Life360. This allows friends to keep tabs on each other. If a friend gets separated at a party or an event, she can easily be located. Such a system can help encourage safety and hopefully avoid some of the tragedies that have recently occurred on college campuses.
It is important for teens to realize that part of being an independent adult involves making responsible decisions. Collegians who set up a support network of friends agree to take care of each other especially at times when individuals are not able to take care of themselves.
ASK DR. JPL: Have a question about your own teen and alcohol? Ask our resident tween, teen and parenting expert, Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder Psy.D, to help you have The Alcohol Talk with your child. Submit your questions on the Ask Dr. JPL page of this blog. Dr. JPL may answer your question on the blog to help other parents address similar issues with their children.