Chattting with students about their holiday plans and traditions they talk about getting together with family and friends and looking forward to that much needed break. It is fun to hear how excited students are about heading home for the holidays.
From my own family experience and traditions I know that offering someone a beer or an alcoholic drink during the holidays is for most of us a way to be hospitable. We might say, “Hi, let me take your coat. Can I get you a drink?” Or it may be wine at dinner and then an after dinner drink. Our intent is to be welcoming and enjoy our friends by making them feel at home. It is seen as a positive social experience and a normal part of the holidays. Our culture has many social benefits and often negative consequences to consuming alcohol.
One of the things we do at the Student Wellness Resource Center is talk with students in a preventive way about alcohol and how to make healthier choices. We have conversations to help students make choices that will reduce drinking and the negative consequences they experience from drinking. We challenge students to increase their awareness of how they may choose to use alcohol and rethink how they might use alcohol differently or not at all. Students have mixed feelings about drinking, the good experiences and the not-so-good ones, yet typically they do not talk about the not-so-good ones without some help. We recognize that students want to make their own choice to drink or not, regardless of legal age. Each student evaluates the risks and benefits associated with drinking. As dialogues go, I have heard from students that drinking is no big deal; it’s just part of college life or life in general. Some students shared they already knew all about alcohol and didn’t need more education. On the other hand, they typically express a new awareness of how they personally use and experience alcohol.
We hope this holiday season may be an opportunity to reflect upon the use of alcohol in your own celebrations. In your tradition of hospitality, if you are re-thinking your own traditions, you may want to offer alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer, or more sodas, juice or non-alcoholic punch or wine as other options. Another consideration may be to make food more important by limiting the amount or time that alcohol is offered. For example, if each person gets one drink prior to dinner and then wine at the table that is limited by the number of bottles. Some people may not know that holiday drinks may have more than 1 shot of hard liquor and are the same as consuming 2 or 3 drinks. They are also high in calories. If you are drinking wine, one standardized drink of wine is around 4 ounces. Although, a person’s size makes a difference, typically one standardized drink or fewer per hour is considered a safe level of drinking and an amount that your body can process.
Heavy drinking has many negative consequences and it may be important to discuss this with your student. Choosing to drink is often connected to our childhood experiences and family traditions. Now is a great time to talk with your son or daughter about the choices you make regarding your traditions and why; along with your concerns about the risks associated with a high consumption of alcohol.