Parent communication can curb binge drinking on campus
For the Superior Telegram
College students look forward to developing friendships, new experiences and making memories that will last a lifetime on campus. Unfortunately for many, college can also be a time of binge drinking and dealing with its aftermath.
“Students often believe that drinking is a routine part of any college experience,” said Linda Bruce, University of Wisconsin-Extension family living educator in Douglas County. Incoming students need to know there are plenty of other students on their campus that do not use alcohol. In fact, there are many clubs, organizations and activities that are alcohol free.
A 2007 College Health Assessment Survey found that 19 percent of students never use alcohol at all. Fourteen percent used alcohol, but had not done so in the previous 30 days.
“Those students who choose to drink can face academic consequences such as missing classes, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall,” Bruce said. A recent study suggests that nearly half of college freshmen who choose to drink spend more time drinking each week than they do studying.
Academics aren’t the only area affected by a student’s choice to drink. Injury, assault, sexual abuse, unsafe sex, blackouts or even death could be other consequences of heavy drinking.
“Most students do not realize that the human brain does not fully mature until age 25,” Bruce said. Excessive and binge drinking can damage the still developing hippocampus which handles memory and learning, as well as the prefrontal area which plays an important role in forming adult personality and behavior.
So how can you help your student deal with college pressures of drinking? Bruce offers several tips for parents.
Talk — don’t lecture. Tell your child you want them to have fun but also to be safe.
Listen to your child’s concerns without passing judgment and without giving advice.
Be aware that your child will experience the most pressure related to drinking in the first six weeks of school.
Call, text and e-mail frequently during the first six weeks.
Know and respect the law. Understand the penalties for underage drinking and share them with your son or daughter.
Moderate or infrequent drinking is the “true norm.” Focus on true norms. Let your student know that the majority of college students do not abuse alcohol.
Take advantage of campus resources. Encourage students to use the services and resources offered by the university.
Inquire about and make certain you understand the college’s “parental notification” policy.
Learn about your child’s roommates. —Allow your child to make up an excuse if it helps them resist peer pressure to drink. For example, a student may explain their wish not to drink by saying, “I drank so much in high school, I’m going to experiment with what it’s like to study sober.” This can help your child “save face” if needed.
Let your student know that you will not pay tens of thousands of dollars to fund a four-year party. It is important to reiterate the reasons for attending college. Let your child know that you have expectations and what those expectations are.
“Your child is about to experience a brand new phase in his or her life,” Bruce said. “Just as you let go when they walked into their kindergarten classrooms, you now need to let go as they walk onto their college campus.”
It is normal for parents to feel anxious, excited and apprehensive. You cannot make decisions for your child-only help them along the way. And if you find your child is partying more than you would like, there is hope, said Bruce.
“Most students quit their excessive drinking as they move into the upper classes and eventually graduate,” she said. “Without peer pressure, throwing up and hangovers lose their appeal.”
A new UW-Extension curriculum, including a DVD titled “Are You Ready? The College Transition,” is available form the UW-Extension Learning Store at http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Are-You-Ready-The-College-Transition-P1277C255.aspx
The program, including PowerPoint presentations, learning materials and a DVD, is designed for educators, but parents and students may also find it helpful.
For more information contact Linda Bruce at (715) 395-1363.