Are you talking to your college-bound teen about alcohol?

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Are you talking to your college-bound teen about alcohol?

Are you talking to your college-bound teen about alcohol?

If your teen’s off to college this fall, you’re probably envisioning pizza parties in the dorm, late-night study sessions, and tons of new friends. But these images tell only part of the college story. The real picture is far more dangerous.

In 2012, a University of Idaho freshman left a party intoxicated and, according to police, likely died of hypothermia when he stopped to rest (or fell) under a bridge in freezing temperatures. This teen didn’t necessarily have a drinking problem—he was most likely just engaging in what’s deemed the “normal” college experience. Unfortunately, this incident is just one of several alcohol-related deaths that have occurred on Idaho college campuses in the recent past.

Whether or not your child’s college makes the “Top Party Schools” lists, frat parties, dorm socials, and off-campus living all provide ample opportunity for your child to drink. An exciting (or uncomfortable!) new situation may be just the incentive your teen needs to try it, or overindulge—and suffer negative consequences.

If you think it’s ok—perhaps a rite of passage—for your child to drink at college, consider this: NIAAA reports that 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries.

And that’s not all. Many other negative consequences can impact your child for life, including:

  • Sexual abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Academic problems: About 25% of college students report missing class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall because of their drinking.
  • Health problems/Suicide attempts: More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use.

The first six weeks of freshman year are especially high-risk for students, many of whom drink heavily as they try to make new friends, pledge fraternities and sororities, and adjust to college life.

What can you do to keep your child safe as they head off to college?

  1. Talk. Help your child understand the specific risks of underage drinking at college. These include poor grades, sexual assault, legal trouble, and worse.
  2. Especially during the first few weeks of the semester, help your child establish healthy study habits and encourage them to join extracurricular clubs and/or sports to keep them engaged in positive activities.
  3. Check in (text!) often to let your child know that you’re proud of them and that you expect them to focus on school, not partying.

If you’re worried about your child’s drinking, consider having your child visit their school advisor or health center. You can also find help from these Idaho and national resources.



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