By Wesley Harris
With this spring’s high school graduations close at hand, thousands of Louisiana students and their families will soon finalize college plans. Those plans should also include family discussions of the importance of healthy decisions.
College counselors say the newfound freedoms students experience after high school graduation can lead to destructive behaviors such as alcohol abuse. Students who leave home for the first time may find themselves pressured to make risky choices with sometimes permanent consequences.
The freshman year is a time of choices. Up to the first year of college, most students had many of their decisions made for them by their parents. Now they may confront temptations and serious peer pressure to make dangerous decisions and engage in irresponsible behavior.
Unfortunately, high-risk drinking is part of the college experience for some students. Numerous accounts of deaths and injuries to college students are documented in the news each year. Incoming freshmen seem particularly vulnerable.
Too many college communities have lost good young people to irresponsible alcohol use. This is a safety issue, a life and death issue.
Once students head to college, it may be too late to encourage them to make responsible choices, especially in terms of alcohol use. Long before students leave home, parents need to obtain accurate information about alcohol and confront their students’ misconceptions that high-risk drinking is a rite of passage in college life.
Commit to communicate with students about alcohol issues. Talk honestly about making healthy and responsible decisions now before they are no longer under your immediate supervision. Parents need to be aware of the dangers of bad decisions and more informed of the consequences.
Students should understand the expected behaviors on campus and within the community. Violation of university regulations or local and state laws can impact future careers.
Many states have laws that prevent persons convicted of DWI or other alcohol-related offenses from obtaining professional licenses, for example. Alcohol violations could lead to disciplinary action or expulsion by a college, not to mention fines, jails, and revocation of driving privileges.
In addition to maintaining communication with their college students, parents should help students decide how they will spend their time outside the classroom. Encourage them to become involved in meaningful activities. Organizations that focus on service and character can fill hours that might otherwise be whittled away in partying or drinking. Activities that provide positive peer influencing can help keep students away from more risky pursuits.
Hold students accountable, even if they are attending college away from home. Know what they are doing. Visit the fraternity house or go to the campus during big ball games. It’s not about spying or treating them like children, but communicating to them that you still have high expectations that they will make you proud.
Parents are encouraged to watch a video on college drinking with their students or visit collegedrinkingprevention.gov for more information. The 6-minute film by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America can be accessed by clicking HERE.
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