DEAR ABBY: Our daughter "Jill" is a 19-year-old college freshman. She recently revealed in a friend's Web diary that she had "chugged" an entire pitcher of beer and had to be carried to her dorm room, where her roommate (also drunk) made her drink water until she threw up. "First time drunk," she wrote -- then ended with the chilling words, "... and I can't wait to do it again."
Needless to say, my wife and I are extremely worried about Jill's binge drinking. Our problem is that the diary is supposed to be off-limits for my wife and me. We had promised our daughter that we'd remove her friend's name from all buddy lists on our home computer -- but it wasn't done, and we have continued to read her diary online.
As I see it, her mother and I have three options: (1) Wait and say nothing, but continue to monitor the situation to see if the "first drunk" was a one-time occurrence; (2) call the college and express concern that they're not doing enough to keep alcohol off campus and away from underage drinkers; or (3) speak directly to Jill, admit we're guilty of reading her diary, and try to discuss the danger of binge drinking (knowing that such a discussion may not be well received).
Abby, our daughter has always been close to us and generally shared her thoughts and feelings. She's our oldest and has usually shown good judgment. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. -- CONCERNED PARENTS IN NEW YORK
DEAR PARENTS: You cannot ignore this and hope it will go away. Speak to your daughter and don't apologize. I'm sad to say that binge drinking is a real problem on many college campuses. Let Jill know the alarm that her disclosure has caused you. Assure her of your love and support, and inform her in a nonjudgmental and nonthreatening way that you expect her to obey the law and protect her own safety and well-being.
Binge drinking among college students has very serious health and safety implications. Alcohol poisoning can be fatal, and girls who get blind drunk make themselves vulnerable to sexual assault. Your daughter is on the verge of adulthood, and she needs to be equipped to make mature, responsible decisions about things that could affect her health and her future.
Arm yourselves with factual information about the potential health, safety and legal consequences of binge drinking. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (1-800-729-6686) offers the fact sheets "Binge Drinking in Adolescents and College Students," and "The Role of Parents in Preventing Underage Drinking." You can also find them on the Web at http://ncadi.samhsa.gov. Good luck.