"It's a very good study," said Dr. Joanne Sotelo, division director of psychiatry at Scott & White Healthcare in Round Rock, Texas. "It gives some information we already knew about the type of intervention that's needed, but it's interesting to see the difference in timing."
Talking with your teen about sensitive topics like drinking can be challenging and parental "tone" is important, she pointed out. "It's such a tough age between high school and college. You're still kind of figuring out who you are and what you want to be, but you still need your parents' support, you are not fully matured."
She said, ideally, parents won't wait until just before college, but will have been "planting seeds," having small conversations, all along.
Sotelo recommended keeping the talks open-ended, not just lecturing. "If you come across as defensive, that's how they'll respond. Instead, you can say, 'I know you're not supposed to drink, but have you already tried it with your friends?'" Sotelo said then you can voice your expectations that you hope they will not get into problems with alcohol.
Football tailgates, fraternity parties -- she said there's no doubt teens will be exposed to alcohol at college and "it's going to be 100 percent their decision to drink or not to drink."
Some universities are beginning to become more aware of the need to work with parents on drinking issues by offering alcohol-free dorms and events, study author Cleveland said. But he said the best place to begin is at home. "It's challenging for parents to face these questions from an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old, but just having the conversation is a good thing," he said.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism supported this research.
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