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Talking to Your Students About Alcohol

Dear Wake Forest parents and families,

We hope that the holidays offer you much time to relax and enjoy having your college students home.  We hope you will catch up with them on many things, from what class they found most exciting and why to hearing about their friends and activities.  If you have not done so already, we encourage you to be in good communication with your student about drinking at college.  Although you might not realize it, parents do have an influence on college students’ attitudes and behavior around alcohol use.  Your attitudes about alcohol use and your communication about them do make a difference.

If you are not sure how to talk to your student about alcohol, we encourage you to use the Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students about Alcohol by Dr. Rob Turrisi.  Research shows that parents who use the handbook and the communication tips within have students who drink less and exhibit fewer drinking problems than parents who do not.  How you choose to go about having this discussion is up to you. The handbook provides you with a variety of strategies and information that you can adapt to fit your own personal style and relationship with your son or daughter.

If you have not done so already, we also encourage you to create a parent account (use school code wfuparent when you register for your account). provides information about how you can help your student face challenges related to alcohol and drugs head on. We encourage you to visit for practical suggestions and strategies to help your student learn healthy ways to relieve stress or socialize with friends and healthy coping skills. Video conversations, interactive tools, and school specific information can also help you feel more confident while talking with your student.

Unfortunately, alcohol misuse leads to many negative academic and social consequences on campus.  As parents and family members, we hope you will help us in the effort to reduce alcohol misuse, including underage drinking, by helping your student to see the benefits of avoiding alcohol misuse as well as the methods to do so.  Helping your student strive for healthy stress-relief, socialization, and coping will pay life-long dividends for them!

We also hope you will be aware of possible alcohol misuse in your student, so that you can intervene to address possible misuse if it’s happening.  Some signs of alcohol misuse are: failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities; poor attendance; low grades; a recent disciplinary action; drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as driving a car; having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or physically hurting someone while drunk; continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking; mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability, and defensiveness; physical or mental problems such as memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech (UConn, 2012).

If your student has signs or symptoms of alcohol misuse please contact Lavi Wilson, Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator at or 336-758.4371 for confidential assessment, brief counseling, and/or referral. Please note that information about students’ appointments with the Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator is confidential and cannot be disclosed to anyone (including parents) without the student’s written consent.

Thank you for your help in this important matter, and happy holidays!


Lavi Wilson, LCAS, LCSW, MSSW
Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator

Christy Buchanan, PhD
Associate Dean for Academic Advising