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What Do I Say to My Graduating Senior About College Next Year and All the Drinking and Partying That I Read About In The News?

Posted May 15 2012 4:34pm

May 15, 2012 by Jeff Wolfsberg | Categories , , , , , , , ,

There’s good news and bad news. The bad is that those students drinking on college campuses are drinking more. However, the good news is there is an increase in students who abstain completely from alcohol or drink moderately.

Additional good news is more and more colleges are taking the issue of underage drinking and dangerous alcohol use seriously. Higher education is developing comprehensive prevention strategies that are making a difference like Social Norms, Brief Interventions and Alcohol Screening.

Any parent who reads the newspaper or watches the news has seen and heard tragic stories about dangerous drinking on college campuses. Parents are frightened by these stories and have every right to be. Because of this fear, I have seen a growing myth gain dangerous traction as a parent strategy.

What is this myth?

More parents believe that allowing their high school senior a little rope regarding their drinking will give them the experience to practice safe and responsible drinking in college.

Let me be unequivocal here, this parent strategy is not a good idea and can have dire consequences. My professional experience as well as the research on college drinking does not support this hypothesis to be true.

The big question that I’ve spent my career thinking about is how do we prepare teens for a world that is filled with alcohol use with the internal skills that allow them to make safe and responsible decisions. Knowing that every teen and every family is different from the perspective of genetic makeup and social and emotional environments, I have to generalize.

What I have seen and research supports, is a no use message regarding alcohol use is best as long as you can maintain it and have significant influence on your teen’s decision to drink or abstain. I say significant influence because while your teen is in high school you can have that amount of influence and should maintain it.

Yes, it’s true, you lose control when they go to college, but while they are in your home during high school, why not maintain the healthiest standards possible that show the best outcomes? No use is considered the best choice.

Jeff Wolfsberg is a drug education specialist and speaker advocating for prevention and early intervention of adolescent substance abuse. This is an excerpt from his new book Message in a Bottle: Questions from Parents About Teen Alcohol and Drug Use .

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