It is an unfortunate reality that alcoholism is a big problem for students in college. They are away from the protective influence of their parents for the first time and they spend the majority of their days around other young adults. This could lead to impulsive decisions that involve underage alcohol consumption, and worse yet, an addiction to alcohol. However, this problem can be successfully prevented long before students ever leave for campus.
Parents and students alike should take alcohol abuse issues seriously. In 1998, there were 1,400 deaths on college campuses across the nation related to alcohol, according to a publication released by Colorado State University. By 2009, that number increased to 1,825 students, all between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). That is an increase of approximately 23 percent in a little more than ten years. In addition, other grave consequences can arise due to alcohol abuse, such as injury, assault, and sexual abuse. Yet, parents can take a proactive role in their teens’ lives and keep them from becoming victims of alcohol abuse by following a few simple steps.
The best way to prevent alcohol abuse is to begin educating students about alcohol and its consequences as early as possible. Students need to be reminded that though the media may make it seem like every college student drinks, it simply is not true. In fact, plenty of students socialize in a variety of healthier and equally fun ways, such as through sports, clubs, and dinner parties. Clubs also offer non-alcoholic versions of delicious cocktails so even those who do not drink can enjoy the party atmosphere. Not only is underage drinking illegal, it also can lead to dire consequences, such as the ones outlined above. Students who plan to drive on campus should especially be warned of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol. Many who do so do not understand just how impaired their skills are while intoxicated or even while just “buzzed.” A whopping 3,360,000 drunk driving cases involved college students in 2009, according to the NIAAA, which means that their driving was erratic enough to draw the attention of a police officer. Also, those who are caught drinking while underage or caught buying or possessing alcohol if they are younger than 21 years old could be arrested, expelled from school, or have the incident go down on their permanent record.
Yet, while educating students about all of these facts, parents should also take care to not take on a condescending tone. This could push students away. Instead, the facts should be delivered calmly and respectfully so that students know that their parents trust them to make smart decisions in college. A strong parent-student relationship is essential in alcoholism prevention, as students who have a good relationship with their parents are less likely to engage in reckless drinking. However, parents should also be a positive role model for students as well, which means not drinking too much or going out to drink too frequently. After all, teenagers who have parents that drink irresponsibly are going to grow up thinking that doing so is an acceptable mode of behaviour.
Parents should also make sure to keep in regular contact with students during their college careers. Weekly phone calls are a great way to remind students that their parents are thinking of them, reducing the chances of them engaging in reckless activities. Even during initial campus visits, parents should stay actively involved and ask the school administrators about alcohol policies. Different schools have different alcohol policies, though the majority of schools do not allow alcohol on campus or in the dormitories. Parents should also inquire about counselling services available because those with good alcohol counselling services may be preferable just in case a student does end up needing help for alcohol abuse issues. In addition, the school’s statistics for drinking rates may be an important consideration when choosing a post-secondary program. Schools with higher reported incidents of student drinking should be looked at with more caution. Parents and students considering schools with plenty of Greek organizations should investigate the alcohol policies of these sororities and fraternities because the drinking rates in these organizations are the highest in colleges.
The first six weeks of college are the most crucial for students. Parents should stay in touch with students to give them positive reinforcement and gentle reminders to avoid irresponsible drinking. After that six week adjustment period has passed, those who have not engaged in reckless drinking will be much less likely to do so for the remaining duration of their college career. With careful school selection, and most importantly, a good role model and alcohol education at home, parents can ensure that their children will not fall victim to college alcoholism.
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