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The Transition House, Inc.

7 tips for talking to your college freshman about binge drinking

binge_drinkingEvery year thousands of doe-eyed new college freshmen settle into their dorms anxiously awaiting their first moments of college life. In our society, college years are hailed as a transformative, exploratory time in a young adult's life. Parental influence is lessened and teens are given the opportunity to spread their wings. With all this new found freedom comes temptation for many. Alcohol abuse among college students is not a new issue. Although there’s been a steady decrease in alcohol consumption among college students over the last 10 years, binge drinking is still the most prevalent alcohol-related issue that students face.

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Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08% or more in a short period of time. Binge drinking – which typically occurs over less than 2 hours – is 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women. Simply put, it is high-risk drinking.

Students who engage in this type of behavior leave themselves at risk for serious personal consequences which can include:
Missing class or academic difficulties
Health problems
Unprotected sex, which can lead to STDs or unwanted pregnancy
Increased risk of sexual assault
Driving while intoxicated or getting into a car with an intoxicated driver
Death or serious injuries

Studies show the first six weeks of a college freshman’s first semester are critical. This is when habits related to future academic success can be formed. This is also when drinking starts or is exacerbated, often due to student expectations and social pressures, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Peer pressure, or pressure from extracurricular organizations like sororities and fraternities, play a large role in the culture that surrounds binge drinking. More than 80 percent of American youth consume alcohol before their 21st birthday. With those statistics working against your college freshman, be sure to prepare them for the likely pressure to conform to social norms.

As a parent, you won’t be able to altogether prevent your child from consuming alcohol underage, but you can educate them on the dangers of binge drinking. Here are 7 tips to keep in mind when talking to your child:

  1. Make it an open discussion. Allow your child to voice his/her opinions as well.

  2. Suggest alternative ways to say “no” to peer pressure.

  3. Avoid blanket statements and stick to “I” statements regarding your child's drinking.

  4. Be honest about your own drinking history, but be careful not to glamorize it.

  5. Compromise on a contact schedule, whether that be a phone call home once a week or a regular video chat. It’s important to give your child freedom, but accountability to check in with family.

  6. Encourage other alternatives to alcohol. Often times college students drink to fit in, or to reduce social anxiety. There are other options out there besides drinking to bond with fellow students.

  7. Provide a list of free resources that are available for your student on his/her college campus. A student affairs office or counseling center is a great resource for dealing with binge drinking pressure and other alcohol-related issues.

Talking to your child about the dangers of binge drinking can be difficult, but keeping communication open is vital, especially when they are no longer living at home. 

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