As the leaves continue to change and the cooler weather settles on campus, we are reminded that the Fall semester is over soon and Thanksgiving and Winter breaks are right around the corner. When you talk with your student about academic progress, campus organizations they may have joined, registering for Spring semester classes, and the many aspects of college life, be sure to include alcohol use as part of your conversation.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive drinking among 18-24 year olds may account for 1,825 alcohol-related deaths and 599,000 unintentional injuries each year. Additionally, 11 percent of college students report that while intoxicated they damaged property and another 25 percent report academic related consequences (e.g., missing class or performing poorly on an exam). Continuously talking with your student about their social life and their experiences with alcohol will have a greater impact on their decision-making than you may think and help to address some of the negative outcomes from excessive alcohol use.
Starting a conversation about alcohol may be tricky, so here are some suggestions to help guide you in the conversation:
Pick a date, time and location suitable and appropriate for the conversation. The moment your student gets home for break is probably not the ideal time. Wait until he or she has settled in and both of you have time available to devote to the discussion. Plan for how you will open up the dialogue and handle the direction of the conversation. Your student may be caught off guard or defensive at first so focus on creating an open and trusting environment.
Some suggestions for dialogue include:
- What do you do for fun?
- What’s the social scene like? Are there a lot of parties, campus activities, etc.?
- What role is alcohol playing in your college experience?
- What will you do if you’re with your friends and everyone is asking you to drink?
- What are some ways you can tell others you do not want to drink or that you have reached your limit?
- What can I/we do to help?
Learn about how alcohol affects the body and be able to share that information with your student. Become familiar with the campus alcohol policies and make sure your student is aware of the associated sanctions. Also, learn about the available resources on campus:
- Substance Use Intervention and Treatment Office (SUIT): Located on the 2nd floor of the University Health Center; SUIT services include Assessment and Referral Services, Substance Use Counseling, Healthy TERPS Program, drug testing, and more.
- eCheckUp to go: A brief and anonymous survey that allows students to see how their current alcohol use compares to other UMD students. This is a free online program.
- CHOICES Peer Education Program: CHOICES (Choosing Healthy Options in the College Environment Safely) is an academic class sponsored by the University Health Center in which students are trained to provide fact-based information about alcohol and drug use so that their peers are prepared to make informed decisions that can reduce harmful consequences for themselves and others. Your student can request CHOICES to speak to their student organization, classes, and/or residence hall. The peer education program is a wonderful way to get involved on campus and earn academic credit at the same time.
- Health Promotion Department: Home to the Campus Alcohol Programs office, the Health Promotion Department is a great place for students to get information about alcohol and other drugs, time management skills, stress management, sexual health, smoking cessation, and general health & wellness. The Health Promotion Department is located on the ground floor of the University Health Center.
- Student Alcohol and Other Drug Policy and Resource Guide: This document is updated and electronically sent to all students on an annual basis. The guide details campus policies as well as campus and community resources.
- Meditation: One reason students may choose to drink is to relieve stress. Talk with your student about ways to de-stress; such as the free meditation sessions available at the University Health Center.
- UMD Weekends: Talk with your student about alcohol-free alternatives to weekend activities. The UMD Weekends listserv provides students with a weekly email about events happening on campus and the surrounding area. Subscribing to the listserv is only a click away on the UMD Weekends website.
While Thanksgiving break may be a great opportunity to have a conversation with your student, be sure to call and email your student and ask about college life periodically throughout the academic year. Make sure your student knows they can approach you with concerns or questions they may have or to get advice. Creating an open line of communication will help to keep the conversation going.
If you have questions about the programs listed above or have concerns about your student’s alcohol use, please reach out to the Campus Alcohol Programs Office at 301-314-8123 or the Substance Use Intervention and Treatment Office at 301-314-8106.
Additional tips for talking to your student about alcohol are available on the Terp Parent website.
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