Gotta Talk To Those College Freshmen Before They Start
March 28, 2013

Gotta Talk To Those College Freshmen Before They Start

High school seniors around the country anxiously await their walk across the stage in two months or so. For many, high school graduation means moving into the work field, while for others it means starting college in the fall. For the latter group, this also means that they could find themselves being exposed to alcohol and drinking, and lots of it. One study released by Penn State highlights that now is the time to start talking to teenagers about alcohol use.

A redOrbit article explains that the researchers found that teenaged college students are seriously more likely to either avoid drinking alcohol altogether or only drink minimally if their parents talk to them before they start college. To figure this out, here’s what the researchers did:

“The team used 1,900 participants for the study who were chosen by randomly selecting incoming freshman to a large, public northeastern university. Each of the individuals were identified as belonging to one of four groups, including nondrinkers, weekend light drinkers, weekend heavy drinkers and heavy drinkers.

Researchers mailed a handbook developed by Turrisi to parents of the students that contained 22 pages of information including an overview of college student drinking, as well as strategies and techniques for communicating effectively about how alcohol affects the body.

Parents involved in the study were asked to read the handbook and then talk to their teens about its contents at one of three times to which they were randomly assigned, which was either the summer before college, during the first fall semester, or both..”

The goal was to determine the best timing (pre-college or after college) and dosage (one talk or more). The results showed that without an intervention talk from parents before the fall semester, new college students are more likely to move from non-drinkers to light drinkers, light weekend drinkers to heavy weekend drinkers, and heavy weekend drinkers to heavy drinkers. However, teens who received a talk about cautioning against too much alcohol either stayed nondrinkers or light drinkers. Some even moved from heavy drinkers to a lower category after the alcohol talk.

College students are likely to drink. Part of the drinking is curiosity and experimentation, figuring out what boozing is all about. Another part is feeling the freedom of being in college. A third part is rebellion. As the study showed, there are different levels of drinking. The key is to teach drinking responsibly if one is going to drink, as well as explaining the effects of alcohol in an open discussion without judgment. If teenagers feel judged, they are likely to shut down. This prevents them from really learning about the use and abuse of alcohol.

Making sure students drink carefully and lightly provides benefits beyond just legal ones. As Penn State explained in the press release, fewer health problems arise for every year that heavy drinking is delayed. If soon-to-be college freshmen understand and have an open discussion with people they trust, then this study shows that they are less likely to develop heavy drinking problems.

Yes, it may be, and likely will be, an uncomfortable experience for parents, but the benefits outweigh the discomfort, for sure. So, parents, get on talking to your kids about booze today. It just may save a lot of heartache.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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