COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR STUDENT ABOUT ALCOHOL
College is an exciting milestone for both you and your student. It is a time of new experiences, a time of transition, and a time to stay connected. In the Jesuit spirit of “caring for the whole person,” SJU partners with parents to ensure students will make a positive transition to college. SJU takes an active role in education students about wellness issues and aims to empower parents to take an active role as well. Even if you have already spoken with your student about alcohol use throughout high school, it is a good idea to revisit the conversation. You may need to adjust your communication style as your student develops greater independence.
Whether you believe it or not, you can have an even bigger influence on your student’s decision making around alcohol and drugs. Keep the lines of communication open; your student will be more likely to try to live up to your expectations if you set clear expectations regarding alcohol.
Studies have shown that family and peers alike can influence drinking behavior actively, by explicitly discouraging irresponsible behavior or passively, by role modeling positive drinking behavior (NIAAA, 1997).
Student who perceived higher parental monitoring during the summer before college were significantly less likely to transition to experiencing alcohol-related consequences (Walls, Fairlie & Wood, 2009)
Students who perceived their parents were more permissive about drinking during the students’ senior year of high school were significantly more likely to transition to weekly alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking and consequences during college (Walls, Fairlie & Wood, 2009)
Remember the 3 R’s
Recognize: Recognize there are social aspects of alcohol that may seem positive to your student. Networking, socializing and bonding with friends can be positive aspects of consuming alcohol in a moderate way. Recognize that many students find it easier to follow the crowd and the majority of students do drink at some point in college. Recognize that telling your student to just say no might not work. Recognize that you got your student this far in life and be confident in your ability as a parent.
Relate: Relate as best you can and try to remember when you were 18. Remind your student that you do understand. If comfortable, share personal stories of positive ways to consume and negative ways to consume. Be clear in your purpose of sharing and explain that you had to make the same choices once too but be careful to avoid glamorizing your “glory days of college.” Instead, invite a discussion about you how want your student to enjoy college in a constructive way, without the negative effects of high risk alcohol use. Be a positive role model and if drinking, consume responsibly.
Responsibility: Responsibility is now in the hands of your student. Discuss the privileges and the consequences that come with that responsibility. Be specific about your expectations. Be honest about what you will do if an alcohol or drug violation occurs and then follow through. Your student must learn to make choices on their own and also deal with the consequences on their own.
- Timing is Key
- All the Time: Make it a consistent part of dinner conversation when checking in about their day and their life
- In the Car: Since you don’t have to look each other in the eye and neither of you can run away
- After Orientation: Ask them directly what they learned during the Alcohol and Drug Presentation or ask them what stood out during the two days on campus
- Casual Settings: Bring up this topic while doing something fun that you both enjoy like shopping, fishing or at a picnic and make it casual
- Join Forces: Utilize the people in your life who also have a connection to your student: coaches, aunts/uncles, older siblings/cousins, friends.
- Mornings: Once your student heads to school, feel free to call early on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning. You will hear it in their voice if they had a late night and it can be a point of discussion.
- First 6 Weeks of School: During this time, first year students are most at risk for a variety of things including alcohol abuse and sexual assault. Connect with them often during this critical time of transition and keep the lines of communication open.
- Information is Critical
- Knowledge: Learn what you can about alcohol and other drug issues and share this knowledge with your student. Be factual and straightforward – correct misperceptions. Learn the policies and laws and share these with your student. Avoid scare tactics and share facts.
- History: A family history of addiction is an important issue to discuss with your student. While the interplay between genetics and environment is not entirely clear, if there is a family history of any addiction, there is a higher risk for abusing alcohol.
- Mental Health: If your student struggles with mental health issues, alcohol abuse can worsen or create new symptoms. Be open about this and seek advice from your doctor.
- No Lecture: When talking with your student about anything, avoid scare tactics and lectures. Be open, supportive and focus the discussion around their reality.
When starting a discussion about alcohol/drugs, remember to keep it casual. Remember to ask open-ended questions about alcohol or drugs and avoid questions that can have a yes/no answer. Show respect by listening completely before responding; this will show your student you are treating them like an adult. Make positive comments about your student’s responsible choices. Be direct – ambiguity can lead to mixed messages. Control your emotions and speak in a calm, relaxed voice.
- Prior to starting college:
- You will be faced with the decision to drink in excess at some point. What do you think your reaction will be?
- Did you learn anything at Orientation about the drinking culture of SJU?
- What are you most nervous about when making new friends at SJU?
- You’ll have a lot of decision to make in college and you might even make some mistakes. Just know that you can talk to us about anything – even if you do make a mistake. We won’t freak out. But you will be expected to handle the consequences like an adult.
- Once college has begun:
- How are you and your roommate getting along – do you have similar styles in what you do for fun?
- What is the culture there? Is it heavily focused on alcohol and drugs?
- Have you witnessed anyone make a fool of themselves while drinking; what was that like?
- Tell me about your new friends. Do any of them dabble in drugs at all? How do you feel about that?
- Do you know where to go for help if you or a friend is having issues with alcohol?
|Parents of First Year College Students, Click Here:|
If substances have caused problems in one’s life, it is abuse and if the person continues to use in the same way regardless of the negative outcomes, the brain is starting to change and is on the road to addiction.
If you are concerned for your student and are looking for resources or more information, feel free to contact us
Signs of Alcohol or other Drug Abuse:
- No longer playing sports or participating in activities that used to bring pleasure
- Hanging out with new friends while also dropping old friends
- Decrease in interest and commitment to classes; declining grades
- Irritability or aggressiveness especially when discussing issues with alcohol/drugs
- Difficulty concentrating and sleeping; use of stimulants to study
- Discipline problems
- Allowing alcohol to be the center of all social activities; avoiding activities that do not involve alcohol
- Needing to drink in order to feel relaxed/feel better
- Blacking out while drinking
- Excessive emotional displays
- Drinking more than intended, not being able to stick to a few drinks
- Feeling guilty or ashamed of drinking/hiding behaviors associated with drinking
- Neglecting responsibilities in work, home, school or relationships
- Drinking in dangerous situations; drinking and driving, mixing with other drugs
- Getting in trouble with the law or at school with Community Standards
Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to harmful, self-destructive behaviors.
Physical Dependence and Withdrawal:
Physical dependence is defined as occurring when the brain adapts to the repeated drug exposure and only function normally in the presence of the drug. When the drug is withdrawn, several physiologic reactions occur. These can be mild (e.g., for caffeine) or even life threatening (e.g., for alcohol). This is known as the withdrawal syndrome. Addiction may include physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms but physical dependence or withdrawal on it’s own are not always indicative of addiction.
Tolerance is defined as when the body and the brain need a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially. Addiction may include tolerance but tolerance on its own is not always indicative of addiction.
Definitions from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at www.drugabuse.gov
The consequences of excessive and underage drinking affect virtually all college campuses, college communities, and college students, whether they choose to drink or not. The statistics below are taken from NIAAA, College Drinking Prevention.
- Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes (Hingson et al., 2009).
- Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2009).
- Assault: 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking (Hingson et al., 2009).
- Sexual Abuse: 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (Hingson et al., 2009).
- Unsafe Sex: 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex and more than 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex (Hingson et al., 2002).
- Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall (Engs et al., 1996; Presley et al., 1996a, 1996b; Wechsler et al., 2002).
- Health Problems/Suicide Attempts: More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem (Hingson et al., 2002), 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 (Presley et al., 1998).
- Drunk Driving: 3,360,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 drive under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2009).
- Vandalism: About 11 percent of college student drinkers report that they have damaged property while under the influence of alcohol (Wechsler et al., 2002).
- Property Damage: More than 25 percent of administrators from schools with relatively low drinking levels and over 50 percent from schools with high drinking levels say their campuses have a "moderate" or "major" problem with alcohol-related property damage (Wechsler et al., 1995).
- Police Involvement: About 5 percent of 4-year college students are involved with the police or campus security as a result of their drinking (Wechsler et al., 2002), and 110,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are arrested for an alcohol-related violation such as public drunkenness or driving under the influence (Hingson et al., 2002).
- Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: 31 percent of college students met criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and 6 percent for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence in the past 12 months, according to questionnaire-based self-reports about their drinking (Knight et al., 2002).