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Talk to your children about alcohol before entering college

College is a time to try new things: learn about living independently, discover new passions, take challenging classes. But for a lot of young adults, it’s also the first time they’re exposed to alcohol.

Binge drinking and alcoholism are serious issues among people aged 18 to 24. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol contributes to the deaths of 1,519 each year, while there are 696,000 assaults annually in which alcohol is involved and 97,000 cases of date rape or sexual assault. If you have a child heading to college in the fall, there are steps you can take to teach your kids to be responsible once they’re out on their own.

Dangers of alcohol

Even students that have had experience with drinking before entering college are susceptible to the dangers of alcohol and alcoholism. The lack of adult supervision, the unstructured free time and the availability of alcohol can contribute to alcohol-use disorder and binge drinking.

The NIAAA says the first six weeks of a student’s freshman year of college are critical. Adjusting to the lifestyle changes, facing societal pressure and reacting to peers’ expectations can lead to dangerous amounts of drinking. This, in turn, can lead to drunk drinking, accidents, alcohol poisoning, legal or academic issues and other bad decision making.

What parents can do

As a parent, you are the most influential person in your child’s life. When you talk to them, they’ll listen. Use the following tips to have conversations with your students about alcohol.

  • Set clear expectations: Let your children know what you expect from them both academically and behaviorally. Twenty-five percent of students say that alcohol has gotten in the way of school work. If they know you are expecting sound academic performance, they will be less likely to take harmful risks.
  • Check in often: Keep an open dialogue with your college student. Be the kind of person to whom they can turn to with their problems. A trusting relationship will discourage your children from sneaking around.
  • Emphasize the rules: Let your children know that drinking is unacceptable and has consequences. Be sure to reiterate the legal, academic, health and social costs that come from alcohol abuse.
  • Be supportive: If your student is struggling with alcohol or drugs at college, let them know that they can openly talk to you. Also help them find to resources for things like counselors or chemical-treatment programs that can help them recover.

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