For parents with children who are about to graduate from high school, families begin to feel the stress of transitioning to another milestone in their children’s lives applying to and enrolling in college. Aside from having to decide which institution best suits their children, there’s also the added worry of what their child should study, as well as having to cope with the proverbial “empty nest syndrome.” Amidst all this pressure, families may forget to address one of the more insidious phenomena that plague a growing number of first-year college students, and has been the ruin of many a promising child’s student career college alcoholism.
A government-sponsored website, College Drinking Prevention, offers some startling statistics. According to the site, which compiles and cites various studies, over 1800 college students die every year from alcohol-related causes, and over half a million are injured while drinking. More than just the direst of circumstances involving personal health, a quarter of all college students report that their academic performance has been seriously compromised by their drinking habits.
While many parents feel that these statistics will represent other children and not theirs, many underestimate the influence of peer pressure in an environment in which parents’ physical presence is out of the picture. Even the most studious, well-adjusted students can falter when they are dropped in an environment in which the culture whole-heartedly embraces binge-drinking.
So what is a parent to do? For one, the best approach is to talk often about the dangers of binge drinking. Presenting your children with the facts about drinking excessively is one way to educate them about the dangers that they will encounter when they move out of the house. Another important thing to take into consideration is that the way you present these facts is just as critical as presenting them in the first place. Teenagers can be particularly dismissive of “scare tactics” or condescending speech. Present drinking as a choice tell them that they are, of course, free to do as they choose, but choice brings with it the responsibility of understanding the consequences. Whatever you do, don’t overly-demonize alcohol, thereby effectively creating “the forbidden fruit” syndrome.
Another way to prevent college age alcoholism is to pick schools carefully. Some schools have a particular reputation of being “party schools,” especially those institutions that have a thriving Greek scene. Avoiding schools in which there is an established drinking culture is an effective way to avoid the possibility of your child binge-drinking when in college. Encouraging your child to be involved in extra-curricular collegiate activities, like the school newspaper or theater group, is one way for your child to develop a close-knit peer group that doesn’t revolve around partying.
In the event that your child does begin drinking, make sure that the institution your child attends has pervasive counseling services that actively reach out to their student body. Be sure to talk to your kid often, and stress that you are there to lend support in any way you can if they encounter problems, whether it’s personal or academic in nature. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to can go a long way in keeping your child focused.