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Ask The Expert: Should I Let My Underage College Kid Drink at Home?

Dear Your Teen:

My college freshman is coming home and I am anticipating that he’ll want to continue his college social life while at home. How do I talk to him about college drinking? It seems complicated to say, “I know you drink at school, but you can’t at home.”

EXPERT | Russell Hyken, PhD

There is a difference between knowing that your teen is drinking alcohol at college and allowing your son to continue drinking alcohol at home. Parents should never endorse alcohol use when their children are under the legal drinking age. In essence, when you say it is okay to use, you are also encouraging your son to break the law. Furthermore, if you allow drinking in your house, you are breaking the law and can be arrested for social hosting.

It is, however, reasonable to assume that your son is going to continue to engage in his social life, and parents should have a discussion about alcohol and college students. Choose a mutually agreeable time to engage in a conversation about expectations while at home. Don’t ambush your son; rather set a time and let him know you want to speak about drinking and your parental thoughts.

3 Expectations to Discuss:

1. Drinking and driving

The most important rule is to make sure your son knows it is never acceptable to drink and drive. Your son should understand that he can always call for a ride without parental judgment.

2. Daily schedule

Next, if it’s summer break, for example, discuss summer work expectations. The best way to minimize alcohol use is to make sure your student has a busy schedule. This could include working, volunteering, or going to summer school.

3. Curfew and wakeup times

Lastly, discuss daily expectations during break, including what time your teen should be home at night and what time he must rise in the morning.

Your son is maturing, and he should be open to discussing expectations. Listen to his perspective but also remember that you are the parent. Keep in mind that as break ends, the effects of excessive alcohol use can endure for many years.

If you feel your son is drinking excessively, seek professional assistance.

Russell Hyken is the founder of Educational and Psychotherapy Services in St. Louis, Missouri and the author of The Parent Playbook: More Discussion/Fewer Arguments. Read more about Dr. Hyken and his work at

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