The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, a point at which most college students are preparing to graduate. Yet, consumption of alcohol is as closely associated with the college experience as fraternities and meal plans. Unfortunately, binge drinking in college is no mere rite of passage; instead, it’s a dangerous activity that can result in severe illness or death if matters get out of hand.
Check out our helpful infographic: Shocking Binge Drinking Facts.
Binge Drinking: The Facts
Though most kids tell their parents they just had one or two drinks, the reality of binge drinking — a night of drinking that consists of at least four drinks for females and five drinks for males — among young people is far different. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 90 percent of alcohol consumed by people under 21 years of age is imbibed through binge drinking.
At the very least, this tells you that your child is likely to encounter binge drinking in some form. Furthermore, according to another study, 16 percent of college students drank to excess five times in the span of a month. While your child might not drink every weekend in college, as is the case with this 16 percent, the opportunity will certainly be there. How you approach the situation will play a large role in his or her safety.
What Can You Do?
Telling your child to avoid alcohol altogether is a fruitless endeavor. It will just result in him or her getting mad at you. On the other hand, explaining the dangers of binge drinking is helpful as long as you go about it the right way. The obvious dangers of binge drinking are alcohol poisoning and potential death, but no young person believes these things can happen to them.
Instead, show how alcohol forces people to make the wrong choices. Images of innocent people being killed by drunk drivers and an unwanted pregnancy caused by alcohol are far more probing than those of people who simply drank too much. Approaching the subject in this way will get your child to actively think about whether or not they should partake in this activity. If they do decide to drink, at least they will be well-informed and will be on the lookout for things that actually happen under the influence.
After the Fact
Let’s face it, your child is going to experiment with alcohol in college, especially if he or she is living in the dorms. As a parent, the worst thing you can do is react negatively to hearing that your teenager has participated in binge drinking. You should instead feel proud that your child told you the truth and acted responsibly. This reinforces the idea of safety in the midst of the inevitable drinking that occurs on college campuses across the country. It will also help you to not worry so much about what your child is doing when you’re not around.
It’s important to maintain the correct disposition. Don’t encourage your child to drink, but don’t treat it like the end of the world. Again, fostering the correct sense of responsibility is the important thing. Most young people who binge drink don’t develop a dependence on alcohol, so focus your attention on the social and emotional consequences of binge drinking. If you’ve done your job, you’ll not only keep your child safe, but you’ll actually strengthen your parent-child bond by adding an additional element of trust.