College Drinking: What Parents Need to Know (cont.)

The proportion of college students who drink varies depending on where they live. Drinking rates are highest in fraternities and sororities, followed by on-campus housing. Students who live independently off-site (e.g., in apartments) drink less, while commuting students who live with their families drink the least.

Important Facts for Parents

A number of environmental influences working in concert with other factors may affect students' alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol use is more likely to occur in colleges:

  • where Greek systems dominate (i.e., fraternities, sororities)
  • where athletic teams are prominent
  • located in the Northeast
II. Parents of a College Freshman-Staying Involved
  • Pay special attention to your son's or daughter's experiences and activities during the crucial first 6 weeks on campus. With a great deal of free time, many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college, and the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaptation to campus life. You should know that about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year.
  • Find out if there is a program during orientation that educates students about campus policies related to alcohol use. If there is one, attend with your son or daughter, or at least be familiar with the name of the person who is responsible for campus counseling programs.
  • Inquire about and make certain you understand the college's "parental notification" policy.
  • Call your son or daughter frequently during the first 6 weeks of college.
  • Inquire about their roommates, the roommates' behavior, and how disagreements are settled or disruptive behavior dealt with.
  • Make sure that your son or daughter understands the penalties for underage drinking, public drunkenness, using a fake ID, driving under the influence, assault, and other alcohol-related offenses. Indicate to them that you have asked the college/university to keep you informed of infractions to school alcohol policies. [For alcohol policies on college campuses see www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/policies]
  • Make certain that they understand how alcohol use can lead to date rape, violence, and academic failure.
III. Parents of a College Student Facing an Alcohol-Related Crisis-Getting Assistance
  • Be aware of the signs of possible alcohol abuse by your son or daughter (e.g., lower grades, never available or reluctant to talk with you, unwilling to talk about activities with friends, trouble with campus authorities, serious mood changes).
  • If you believe your son or daughter is having a problem with alcohol, do not blame them, but find appropriate treatment.
  • Call and/or visit campus health services and ask to speak with a counselor.
  • Indicate to the Dean of Students, either in person or by email, your interest in the welfare of your son or daughter and that you want to be actively involved in his or her recovery despite the geographic separation.
  • If your son or daughter is concerned about his or her alcohol consumption, or that of a friend, have them check out www.alcoholscreening.org for information about ongoing screening for problems with alcohol.
  • Pay your son or daughter an unexpected visit. Ask to meet their friends. Attend Parents' Weekend and other campus events open to parents.
  • Continue to stay actively involved in the life of your son or daughter. Even though they may be away at college, they continue to be an extension of your family and its values.

In 1999, a majority of college and university presidents identified alcohol abuse as one of the greatest problems facing campus life and students. A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges presents a series of recommendations to college presidents, researchers, parents, and students to deal with this continuing public health problem in a scientific and sensible way. We encourage parents to continue to educate themselves by referring to and using the following materials prepared by the Task Force.

Source: www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov


Last Editorial Review: 10/7/2005



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