Parents, if you have talked to your child about the dangers of alcohol, congratulations. He or she might have ignored you, but surveys show one of the most effective ways to prevent young people from following the crowd is for parents to let them know underage drinking is forbidden in your home.

That’s right, parents speaking about the dangers of alcohol really can influence their offspring to make safer choices. We know this because Buffalo County Community Partners regularly conducts behavior risk surveys, asking teens about their alcohol use and what influences their decisions. Some kids tell the survey that they ignore their parents and have experimented with alcohol or even become risky users.

However, some teens listened when their parents talked about alcohol and decided to stay away from the stuff.

That little push from parents is important. If you haven’t told your child about the dangers of alcohol, you may have a final opportunity this fall before carting them off to college.

It’s critical that you have the talk with your child because he or she soon will set foot into a place where use by 18- to 20-year-olds dramatically escalates.

New students appear most likely to initiate or increase alcohol use during their first six weeks of college, as they adjust to new social and academic expectations, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Overall, SAMHSA notes, full-time, first-year students tend to drink more than their peers who do not attend college — and suffer significantly more alcohol-related consequences.

What are those consequences? Poor grades, risky circle of friends, unwanted pregnancy, trouble with the law ... the list could go on and on.

This week the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services posted advice for parents. DHHS said parents ought to look for opportunities to bring up the topic. During the hunt for a residence hall, parents might suggest looking for a dorm where booze is banned, and start the talk from there. Having an appropriate jumping-off point would make things easier for parents, but they should not tiptoe around the issue.

Waiting for the right moment to have such an important talk with your soon-to-be college student is courting disaster. The right time might never come.

Parents just need to remind themselves how much effort, patience and courage they’ve invested in bringing their child to this critical point. If you really need a conversation starter, simply say, “We love you, and before we turn the family car around and head back home, there’s something important we want you to hear ... .”

Remember, in a place where everyone else tells them to say “yes,” they really need someone whom they respect to share a few reasons to say “no.”

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