You're the parent of a newly admitted college freshman—and it won't be long before you deposit your child in the dorm and drive away, but before you do, it's important to make sure your child is fully aware of the risks of college drinking. They can't be overstated.
Every year in the U.S., college drinking contributes to:
• 1,569 accidental deaths, including fatal car crashes.
• 97,000 sexual assaults and date rapes.
• 696,000 assaults by another student who has been drinking.
In addition, about 1 in 4 college students report that drinking—and especially binge drinking—has hurt them academically. They've missed class, done poorly on exams and papers, and received low grades as a result of using alcohol.
The good news: You still have considerable influence over your child's choices, even into the college years. Studies suggest that students who choose not to drink often make that choice because their parents talked about drinking's dangers with them. So:
Speak up. Address the risks of drinking head-on with your child. And make your expectations about not using alcohol clear. Zero-tolerance messages appear to be the most effective at keeping kids from drinking in college.
Keep talking. The first six weeks of the freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking. Even so, keep reinforcing your zero-tolerance stance on underage drinking throughout college. You're showing continued concern for your child's well-being.
Be honest. If your child asks about your past drinking behavior, be honest. Own up to any risks you took—and any negative consequences that resulted. Be sure to answer your child's questions in ways that don't suggest underage drinking is OK.
Sources: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration