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3-step guide to handling your college kid & drinking when traveling abroad

To err is human and good parenting.

For more than a decade, you have been teaching your now college-age son or daughter that drinking before the age of 21 is wrong and could lead to harmful and life-altering consequences — not to mention it’s also illegal.  What are you to do now that they are planning a trip abroad to a land where drinking is legal for 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds?

Don’t be naïve and think they won’t consider drinking because it’s still illegal back home, instead seize this teachable opportunity to reinforce your beliefs and expectations with regard to alcohol, but also to help them navigate through this exciting experience with the skills and confidence they need to make responsible decisions.  And that is why to ERR – educate, responsibility and respect – is good parenting.

Educate: Keep talking and teaching your son or daughter about underage drinking, drunk driving, and binge drinking.  Empower them so that they will be able to make good choices and will understand the negative consequences of their behavior.  Whether they are at a bar or pub, a party, or any other place where people are drinking, teach them to have a game plan and how to spot and avoid dangerous situations.  Make sure you also educate them about the laws of the land should they or their friends choose to drink.

Responsibility: If your son or daughter decides to drink, make sure they know how to drink responsibly.  Responsible consumption is moderate or low-risk drinking, but it also includes knowing their limits, understanding how alcohol affects them as an individual (gender, weight, age, food, etc.), knowing what a standard drink is and what is in their drink, and that sometimes responsible consumption may just be not drinking at all.  While deciding to drink or not drink will ultimately be their personal choice, with it comes personal responsibility for themselves and those in his or her group.

Respect: Respect is a two-way street, and, to earn their respect, you must show respect to your college-age son or daughter.  Trust that they have been listening to you all these years and that you have taught them well, and in turn they will remember and respect the rules you have imparted on them and that they will respect themselves enough not to do things they know can harm them.  And remind them when it comes to drinking, respect also means respecting the decision of others not to drink.

In the end, listen carefully and respectfully and continue to discuss the issue of drinking with your college age son or daughter – they will continue to face new situations and your guidance and influence are as important as ever.  Be prepared to respond constructively, but trust you have educated them well on this issue and that they are becoming the responsible young adult you hoped they would be.

Have you faced this situation? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments or tweet us at @goFAAR.

Authored by Maureen Dalbec, Vice President of Research at and mother of a college student and a high school senior.

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