Last week I discussed excessive alcohol consumption and offered some suggestions. Almost immediately following my blog post an article from NBC online news reported on a survey that found that teens whose parents told them that underage drinking is unacceptable were 80 percent less likely to drink than those given a more acceptable message. Research shows that teens who don’t drink until age 21 are more than 80 percent less likely to abuse alcohol than those who drink before age 15. Alcohol and relationships can be a detrimental combination for students since alcohol can impair judgement and decision-making. Making decisions about the level of intimacy and physical connection can be severely compromised when you add alcohol or drugs to the mix.
A common concern for college students is, “how do I know if I’m dating the right person and can he/she be trusted?” Relationships can be stressful at times for all of us, but especially for students who have limited experience and skills to cope with the emotions and/or conflict that may ensue. When considering a relationship it helps to spend time with the person in a group first and get to know him/her before delving into a dating relationship. Plan activities together with your friends and consider their feedback. Pay attention to how they treat people and how much time they spend talking about themselves. Are they close with their family and friends? Do they manage their emotions and behaviors well? Do they have goals, ambition, and direction for their life? Most importantly, do they appreciate and respect you?
Communication is an essential ingredient for all relationships. Are you able to share your thoughts and feelings with each other without judgement and actually feel like you’ve been heard? Can he/she accept and respect your emotions and opinions even when they differ? It is helpful to discuss expectations and needs as the relationship progresses. Maintain healthy boundaries and be sure that your “no” is respected. Deal with conflict directly and talk through disagreements rather than lash out or shut down. Dealing with conflict constructively can actually strengthen your relationship. If a break-up occurs, deal with the sadness, hurt, and possible anger rather than carrying it to the next relationship. Relationships can bring a lot of joy if you accept that they also require effort.