Talk To Teens Now About College Drinking
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
Health, Wellness, & Safety
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A new study by a Penn State researcher found that talking with a teen about drinking alcohol before they begin college is an effective strategy to moderate college drinking. However, the time to have this conversation is well before she goes away to school in the fall. Now is the time…
According to Dr. Robert Turrisi, “Over 90 percent of teens try alcohol outside the home before they graduate from high school.” This dabbling can become serious once a child is away from home, however. Binge drinking is epidemic on college campuses. Yet, says Turrisi, “It is well known that fewer problems develop for every year that heavy drinking is delayed.” You can delay or even inhibit your child’s engagement with binge drinking by having a serious talk about alcohol now.
A study conducted at Penn State involved 1,900 incoming freshmen and their parents. Each of these high school students was identified as being a nondrinker, a weekend light drinker, or already a weekend heavy drinker and or an everyday heavy drinker. The parents of these students were instructed to talk with their teens about drinking at one of three points in time: during the summer before starting college, during the summer and then again in the fall of the student’s first semester at college, or only in the fall of the first semester.
Because it is known that college students tend to drink more than they did at home, regardless of their beginning level of consumption, any slowing of this progression as a result of the parents’ conversations about drinking would demonstrate the positive effect of this plan. But this study showed more than just a slowing. When parents talked to their teens over the summer, teens who were non-drinkers or light drinkers were likely to remain in those groups and teens who were heavy drinkers drank less.
Teens whose parents waited until their children were heading off to school in the fall or timed the conversation for some time during the fall semester were likely to drink more.
The first thing to take away from this study is the fact that even teens who do not drink and who have been taught from childhood not to drink will likely drink once they are away at school and enmeshed in college culture. It’s important to expect this and to have a conversation with your teen about drinking.
But the second thing to take away is that waiting to have this conversation until the end of the summer is not the best strategy. Talk with your teen now, while there is time for your message to sink in before the excitement of college gets in the way.
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.