Your kid is a college freshman starting her second semester. Have you had that talk about alcohol and sex?
It’s not too late.
These can be difficult discussions to have for sure. But, experts from the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital say it’s critical that parents have matter-of-fact talks with newly independent young adults about risky behaviors.
Underage drinking and binge drinking on college campuses is a serious public health problem. College students drink more than their peers who don’t attend college. A 2014 national survey showed that 38% of college students engaged in binge drinking.
Alcohol abuse can lead to all kinds of problems, including academic failure, violence and accidental deaths. Nearly 100,000 sexual assaults on college campuses a year are related to alcohol.
“It’s fine to say you shouldn’t drink, but that stuff tends to go in one ear and out the other,” said Dr. Stephen Sondike, director of adolescent medicine. “It should be tempered with how to stay safe.”
Suggestions to consider:
- Even if you’ve warned your kids against driving under the influence, it’s worth repeating. Tell them to make sure they have a ride home from a sober driver.
- Tell your daughters to be on alert for beverages spiked with date-rape drugs. Never accept a drink from someone else, unless that person is well known and trusted. And always keep an eye on your drink when you’re out with a group.
- Tell your sons that when it comes to sex, they need to understand what consent means and what “no” means. They should be aware that alcohol and drugs impair judgment, and what appears to be consent may not be clear. It’s best not to pursue sex with someone who is under the influence.
- Talk to your kids about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.
The adolescent medicine clinic often sees teens who are not aware they have chlamydia or gonorrhea.
“Choices made in college about unprotected sex can have severe consequences later in life,” said Julie Wyatt, a nurse practitioner for adolescent medicine. “STDs are not always obvious. Sometimes they don’t produce symptoms, and untreated they can cause permanent damage to reproductive organs and lead to infertility.”
Wyatt suggests that you also remind your kids to be aware of their surroundings on and around campus, where it can be easy to fall into a false sense of security. Daughters should be armed with mace, and kids should always keep their cell phones charged.
“You need to provide education to them,” said Wyatt. “You hope that the values you teach your child will get through, but you still need to have a conversation with them.”
If you’re not comfortable having that conversation, maybe an older sibling or close relative can take on the challenge, she said.