This letter was written by a junior woman at Gustavus to all parents. A recent look at her own drinking has inspired her to share her experiences so parents and students may have a more open and honest conversation about alcohol use.
"Recently I saw a news story about binge drinking at the University of Minnesota. While it focused on the students at the U of M, they could have been talking about any college. It pained me to see how out of touch the adults seemed and how they came to no real conclusion about why students binge drink or how they can be helped. They stated that binge drinking was having five drinks. My friends and I laughed. They said that students were drinking upwards of twenty five drinks. My friends and I named people that do that every weekend. Talking about students drinking seems a bit of a phenomenon to me lately. One that has had no results and answered no questions. I know that parents are often in the dark about their kids drinking whether it is by choice or not. If you know your student is drinking, fine, but do you know how much they’re drinking?
As a freshman in college I never considered myself a party girl, but maybe that’s what I was. I went out two to three times a week, a relatively common amount compared to a lot of people that I hung out with at parties. When I went out I drank and I drank a lot. This was no indication of a larger problem because let me explain another phenomenon I have seen at college, the party scene. If you are drinking (which is the large majority) you are getting drunk. This is not social drinking, having a few beers with your buddies. This is having five or six shots in your dorm room before you go out and actually start drinking. If you think this is not something your child would do, you’re wrong. Because if that sounds like something a hard-core drinker would do you are not in the right mentality. In college people think they can drink every night of the week and they don’t have a problem. It’s not until they’re drinking everyday in the workforce that it’s a problem. And yes I do know people that drink five to six times a week, four in a “good” week. These are the same people that I would not classify as having a problem. They’re just having fun in college. Don’t get me wrong I find this behavior to be both sad and unhealthy, but if there are going to be any changes in how students drink we have to be honest about what they’re doing. Now that we have established what kind of drinking habits college students have, what can parents do about it?
The bottom line is that students are not going to stop drinking, so telling them not to drink is only going to annoy and distance them. Telling them to drink less is a starting point to solving problems. Tell them that drinking less will help keep that pesky freshman fifteen off. Drinking less will prevent embarrassing party moments like falling or puking in front of half the campus. Drinking less will make you feel a whole lot better the next morning. I know it sounds cliché, but what is the point of going out if you’re not going to remember any of it the next day? Ignoring the fact that your child is drinking is not smart for either of you. Encourage them to go out and have fun and talk to them about what and how much they’re drinking. Get interested into that aspect of their lives because it’s a big part of college for some students. As parents it’s your duty to start talking to them now before they call you from detox, jail, or the hospital."