Swanson: Safe and Responsible Drinking Starts at Home

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By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

For many of us, college will be (or has been) the setting for our first drinking experience. After going through roughly the first 20 years of our lives sober, we’re suddenly thrust into an environment where it’s encouraged to go from completely in control to waking up and having your actions from the last night retold to you because you can’t remember them. It can definitely be dangerous, especially since we’re all going in without experience. But how do you learn to drink safely when your first drink is at a frat party? That’s not to say it’s always unsafe to drink at college parties, but the drinkers of the future could really benefit from learning how to drink in a safer space. But where is the best place for them to learn?

The answer lies within the same people who taught us how to act around strangers, operate motor vehicles and prepare for other dangerous situations  —  our parents. That already makes sense to a lot of us; it may even be how some of us gained our first drinking experience. To a lot of us, it seems ludicrous to think of underage drinking at all. In order to keep people safe in potentially unsafe places, I think it’s important for students to have their first drink handed to them by a loving parent — not some random guy at a party.

Before anybody misinterprets my argument, I’m not exactly advocating for the mothers of the world to hand shots of tequila to their 8-year-old after a play date. The issue of alcohol pops up when kids enter junior high school and primarily when they’re in high school. We’ve all either been to or have at least heard of the high school parties and get-togethers where alcohol was involved. So I think it’s appropriate for parents to safely introduce it to their children around this time of their lives. When monitored responsibly at home and under the supervision of other adults who have learned how to handle it safely, they can develop the skills they need to not become dependent on other inexperienced teenagers when things go south.

Parents can teach their kids about pacing and finding their limit. That way when their kids go to their first party, they don’t feel pressured to drink too much all at once and end up throwing up and crying in the bathroom. Parents can promote a stable practice of drinking at a balanced pace, maybe with a glass of water in between drinks. This way, teenagers can still have a good time while maintaining control of their body and actions. By teaching children this, parents can prevent a myriad of potential difficulties. In teaching others to drink responsibly, we can prevent many people from getting sick in scary party environments and rolling the dice with alcohol poisoning. Through helping people find their limit, we can prevent college students from blacking out in strange places and having their mistakes and regrets relayed to them by friends and strangers. By getting them in the habit of eating beforehand and drinking water while drinking, we can have functioning students the morning after who can successfully go to class or work.

The most important and valuable thing we gain from this practice is a group of responsible drinkers at parties who know what they’re doing and can look out for the friends and strangers who have never learned these lessons. These people can bring dinner to the group they’re heading out with before they go to the big party. They can stop that friend from engaging in another round of beer pong because they’ve obviously had enough. They can bring a glass of water to the person who hasn’t had one the whole night. They can be confident in looking after the friend who has already had too much and has blacked out. By embedding safe practices in children early, everybody who goes with them gains the asset of a safe and fun time.

Every parent who sends their son or daughter off to college needs to understand that their child is going to drink; it’s simply a part of the college experience and of growing up. The least they can do as responsible caretakers is make sure that their children are prepared to handle it effectively. I think we can all agree that safe drinking is in the best interest of everyone, and it’s pretty clear that there is one solution to the situation. I’m not asking for parents to promote and encourage drinking, underage or not, but to simply recognize that drinking is likely something that their child will engage in, and they have a hand in preparing their child for that time.

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