April is Alcohol Awareness Month!
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to focus on the importance of preventing and treating alcohol-related issues. College students can face problems associated with alcohol use. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,519 college students between the ages of 18-24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. Additionally, about 696,000 students in that age group are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and roughly 1 in 5 college women experience sexual assault during their time in college, the majority of which are alcohol or other substance-related sexual assaults.
College students are at an age where they are often trying to establish their independence, navigate their social lives, and cope with the stress of academic demands. All these factors, combined with the influence of peers, media, and misinformation, can lead to alcohol misuse. As a result, parents and family members can play a crucial role in supporting their college students and helping to prevent alcohol-related problems.
Top Reasons Teens / Young Adults Try Alcohol:
- Everyone’s Doing It – Or So They Think: Many teenagers and young adults believe that drinking is part of growing up because they see it as a norm. However, the reality is that many have never tried alcohol. At EWU, 59% of students do not drink alcohol in a typical month (2021 NCHA survey). Parents and family members can start the conversation about alcohol use with their college students and explain the risks involved in drinking, including its effects on health, safety, and academic performance.
- The Media They View: The media often portrays alcohol use as glamorous and fun, without showing the negative consequences that can occur. Parents and family members can discuss with their college students the messages that media sends about alcohol use and encourage them to be critical thinkers.
- A Way to Cope: Sometimes, college students turn to alcohol to cope with stress or negative emotions. Parents and family members can encourage their college students to seek out healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, meditation, or talking with a counselor.
- Boredom/Curiosity: College students who are not engaged in activities that are challenging or exciting may turn to alcohol as a form of entertainment. Parents and family members can help their college students find fulfilling activities, such as joining clubs or volunteering in their community.
- To Feel Independent: College students may use alcohol to prove their maturity and independence. Parents and family members can encourage their college students to assert their independence in other ways, such as taking responsibility for their own academic and personal goals.
- How It Makes Them Feel: Alcohol can provide an initial sense of pleasure and euphoria, which can be appealing to college students. Parents and family members can explain that the long-term effects of alcohol can be harmful and help their college students explore alternative ways to feel good.
- To Feel More Relaxed: Many college students believe that alcohol can help them feel more comfortable and confident in social situations. Parents and family members can encourage their college students to practice social skills and build self-esteem in healthier ways.
- Misinformation: College students often get their information about alcohol from unreliable sources, such as peers or social media. Parents and family members can provide accurate information about alcohol and its effects and encourage their college students to seek out reliable sources of information.
Conversation Starters: Some Questions Parents Can Ask Their Teens / Young Adults:
- What are your thoughts about seeing pictures of friends or celebrities drinking on social media?
- Why do you think movies and social media posts seem to show the fun side of drinking, but rarely the downside?
- What do you think you might you say if someone offered you a drink?
- Have you ever felt pressured to drink alcohol?
- What are your thoughts on drinking and driving?
- What are some healthy ways you can cope with stress and negative emotions?
- Have you ever felt uncomfortable or unsafe in a situation where alcohol was involved?
- Do you have any concerns or questions about alcohol and its effects?
- Have you ever been in a situation where a friend was drinking too much? What did you do?
- How can we, as your family, support you in making healthy choices related to alcohol use?
- If you know your child drinks, it helps to understand why, so you can address your child’s needs in a healthier way. Use questions like:
- What do you enjoy about drinking?
- How does drinking make you feel?
It’s important to approach these conversations with a non-judgmental and supportive attitude. By actively listening and focusing on the health and safety of your college student, you can help them make informed decisions about alcohol use and encourage them to seek out healthy coping mechanisms.
Alcohol Awareness Month is an opportunity to address the issues related to alcohol. Parents and family members can play an important role in supporting their college students and helping them make healthy choices related to alcohol use. By understanding the factors that contribute to alcohol misuse and engaging in open and honest conversations, you can work towards creating a healthier and safer environment.