As the end of winter approaches, college students around the country are eagerly anticipating a full week off from class to blow off steam during spring break. Although some college students gravitate toward charitable activities, like a volunteer trip to a developing country or with an organization like Habitat for Humanity, a common theme for many students on spring break is still partying and drinking – and that includes students who are underage. In fact, it’s becoming more popular for students to travel abroad over break to "drink legally" outside of the U.S.
With a new found freedom, students often drink more than their bodies can handle, which could lead to illness or injury, hospitalization, sexual assault and more, all in a foreign country with language barriers and no parental guidance.
While traveling to a foreign country (or “international waters” on a cruise) may seem like a loophole to avoid running afoul of underage drinking laws, it doesn’t change the other risks and negative effects that accompany this behavior. If your child is planning a spring break trip, it’s important to make sure she understands the implications of binge drinking.
The following tips can help you start the conversation with your college-age child about the dangers of binge drinking on spring break:
- Discuss the physical consequences: Detail the health risks and other negative effects related to alcohol abuse rather than focusing on the moral issue. Teens and young adults are very concerned with their physical appearance, so if they believe a substance will impair their looks and health, they may be less tempted. The Drinking Mirror smartphone app offers a startling look at the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on appearance.
- Tie-in the future: Emphasize how drugs and alcohol can affect your child’s future, such as negatively impacting her academic performance or holding her back from a dream career. No employer wants to see online photos of a candidate drunk in Cancun, even if it was spring break.
- Use positive reinforcement: Compliment your child for the healthy choices she makes. For instance, if she’s spending spring break in a tropical destination, talk about the great snorkeling, free yoga classes or amazing sightseeing she can look forward to – not the open bar at the resort.
- Be clear about the rules: Remind your child that alcohol use is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, and that as a parent, you have a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. Explain that there will be specific consequences if this rule is broken.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the best thing to do is seek help from a professional, such as a doctor or licensed addiction specialist.
For more information on addiction, treatment and recovery among adults, young adults and teens, visit www.caron.org.
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Tammy Granger is the Corporate Director of Caron Treatment Centers’ Student Assistance Program, which provides solution-oriented alcohol, tobacco and other drug education, prevention and intervention services to parents and students. Learn more at www.caronsap.org.