Navigating Difficult Conversations: Alcohol

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Parent and Family Programs

Families can play a critical role in the health and well-being of their college students. Your wisdom, guidance, and relationships help inform students’ decisions throughout college. We believe that parental conversations about alcohol, in particular, contribute to increased student safety, student ownership of their actions, and healthier and more positive experiences in college. 

Parent and Family Programs and DuWell (Duke’s health promotion and wellness unit) developed the following video to spark conversations about alcohol use and social decision-making before your student arrives to Duke:

We suggest addressing the following in your conversations with your student:

  • What are your social goals for the evening? If you decide to drink, how will alcohol help or hinder?
  • What are reasonable limits (speed and quantity) for alcohol consumption?
  • How will you know if you have consumed too much?
  • How will you avoid or use caution around liquor knowing it is involved in most alcohol poisoning situations?
  • How will you respond if a friend needs assistance after drinking?
  • If you choose not to drink, what will you do to avoid peer pressure?

While you cannot be a part of every decision that your student makes at Duke, we encourage you to also be clear about what expectations you have for your student. Discussing expectations and familial consequences—whatever those may be—brings a sense of transparency and reminds students of their responsibility for their own education. 

Your students will have opportunities throughout this summer, once they arrive on campus in August, and throughout their time at Duke to obtain information about choices around substance use and how your student can make healthy, values-based decisions. They are currently assigned Wellness at Duke modules that they will complete this summer and will participate in additional orientation sessions in person. We hope this will continue to build on the concepts that you and your student will have already discussed.

Your conversations with your student are an important part of a student’s preparation for college. A student who has already thought about their own boundaries, social priorities, values, and familial expectations will feel more confident in responding to challenges and new scenarios faced in college, including those involving alcohol. 

Contact DuWell (, 919-681-8421) for more information about alcohol education on campus, or encourage your student to reach out if they want to talk to someone on campus about alcohol use.