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Parents and families are an important part of the college journey. You will offer support, encouragement, and guidance throughout your student’s time at the University of Kentucky. There are so many resources available on campus to support you and your student at each phase in their journey.

Family Handbook for Talking to College Students About Alcohol

Alcohol and drug use can have a significant negative impact on a college student’s life and on the campus community.  Research has shown that parents and families can play an important role in influencing this behavior.  We have put together a resource guide to help you, as a parent or family member, in understanding alcohol and drugs on college campuses and having this conversation with your student.

Thank you for your interest in the University of Kentucky’s Family Handbook for Talking to College Students about Alcohol.  The guide has been made available by the UK Parent and Family Engagement and Well-Being, part of the Office for Student Success.  For more information, contact

Download the Handbook

A Family Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol

A Compilation of Information from Families, Students, and The Scientific Community

By: Rob Turrisi, Ph.D.

Download the 2024 Handbook

Mental Health & Wellbeing: Help for Parents and Families

Sometimes small changes in behaviors or attitude are the first indicator that a student may need more assistance.  As parents and family members, you often notice these changes before anyone else.  We understand that it can be difficult to know where to refer your student when they have questions or need assistance.  In order to help with this, we have put together several campus resources that help identify offices where you can send or refer your student when they need support.

Tips for Supporting Your Student When They are in Distress

  • The most important way to be supportive is to listen and try to be nonjudgmental and uncritical. (It is hard at times not to say "I warned you" or "I told you so" but this is rarely helpful)
  • Spend time with your student if possible. Just being present even when there is silence is helpful.
  • Let them know that you care and that you are willing to listen. Say so directly.
  • Be encouraging and hopeful that the problem will eventually resolve and they will eventually feel better, while also letting them know that you understand the problem is important to them (otherwise they wouldn't be in so much distress).
  • You want to help your student to take action and feel better but do not try to help them solve the problem until you have taken the time to listen.
  • You want your student to develop problem-solving skills. Ask them what things they think might help before you offer your own solutions. Unless you are concerned about your student's safety, encourage and support them in trying out their own solutions before you insist they try yours.
  • When your student is in distress, it is okay to share similar experiences or feelings but do not make yourself the focus of the conversation.
  • Reassure your student that you will respect their privacy, but avoid promising total secrecy in case you need to reveal something to keep your student safe.
  • Be clear that while you want to be helpful, there are limits to your support and expertise. Encourage them to speak to a professional when what they need is beyond what you can provide.
  • Tell your student that it is a positive sign to seek help when you need it and that we all do so from time to time. It is a sign of maturity to know when you need help and to ask for it.
  • If you are concerned that your student may be thinking about suicide, ask directly. Say, "are you thinking about suicide?" Do not say, "you aren't thinking about suicide, are you?" as this gives the impression that you do not really want to know if the answer is "yes."
  • Recommend or strongly suggest that your student seek help by connecting with TRACS rather than telling them they must do something unless the situation is urgent.
  • Follow up and find out how your student is doing and whether things are changing.

Tips for Encouraging Your Student to Get Help

  • Talk directly about your concern for your student.
  • Specifically describe the behaviors and the moods that you have observed in your student that concern you.
  • State how you see these behaviors/moods having a negative effect on your student.
  • Encourage getting help to remove these negative effects.
  • Emphasize that a professional listener can be more objective than you can.
  • Emphasize that seeking help is a sign of health, strength and maturity.
  • Emphasize that talking to a professional is confidential (i.e. you won't know what your child talks about unless your student wants to tell you).
  • Share your own positive experiences with getting help, if applicable.
  • Reveal any family history of depression or other mental health disorders.

Connecting to Campus Resources

218-YouK and TRACS

Families are also encouraged to utilize UK's 218-YouK and TRACS services to connect their student for support and resources.  Families are welcome to report their concerns by calling or completing the Get Help form regarding their student.

Connect to Resources

UK Parent and Family Engagement

The Office of Parent and Family Engagement provides support, education, and engagement opportunities to the parents and family members of UK students with the purpose of helping them and their students successfully navigate the University of Kentucky experience.

Connect with the PFA