Talking With Your Student
What can you do?
Talk with your son or daughter now... before they leave for college. Campus climate is important, but ultimately it is up to your son or daughter to make responsible choices. Studies show that parents remain a key influence on college students. Your opinions and guidance can make a difference!Prepare the conversation
Plan for the conversation and exchange of information face to face rather than over the phone. It is ideal to have this discussion before your student leaves for school. Look for and create "reachable moments" around the television, news, books, newspapers, etc. that deal with substance abuse in college settings. Talk to other parents and get their ideas.
How Can You Start the Conversation? Consider asking your son or daughter the following questions:
- How will you decide whether or not to drink at college?
- What reasons or excuses can you give your peers if you don't want to drink?
- What will you do if you find yourself at a party with only alcohol to drink?
- What will you do if your roommate only wants to drink and party?
- What will you do if your roommate or a neighbor passes out from drinking too much?
- How will you get home if the person you rode with is too drunk to drive?
Make your expectations clear. College is a major investment of time and money. Set clear expectations that your son or daughter will focus on academic work and personal development. Make sure he or she understands that underage alcohol consumption, using a fake ID, and alcohol-impaired driving are illegal and that there are severe consequences for it. Make it clear that you do not condone breaking the law.
Early Weeks Are Critical
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the first 6 weeks of the first semester are critical to a first-year student's academic success. Because many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college, the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaptation to campus life. The transition to college is often difficult enough without alcohol issues interfering.
Since the first six weeks of college are a very high-risk time for first-year students, it is helpful if you call, write, or send e-mail frequently and offer your support.
You may want to ask questions such as:
- How are you doing?
- Do you like your classes?
- What is the party scene like?
- What kind of activities other than drinking are available on- or off-campus?
- Are you comfortable with your behavior since you started college?
- How are you getting along with your roommate? Do your roommates drink?
- Are you feeling overwhelmed?
- What do you do to relieve stress?
- Do you want to come home for a visit?
- What can we do to help?
If your student indicates that "everyone drinks," or if you gather that he or she is drinking, pursue the issue. Reinforce your academic and social expectations. Get and share the facts. Students grossly overestimate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. Young adults are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink in amounts they perceive to be the norm. You can play a vital role in providing accurate information.
Help them take a stand. Encourage your student to assert her or his right to a safe and livable environment. Students who do not drink are affected by those who do. Explain that your student can confront offensive behavior either directly by talking to the other student or indirectly by notifying residence hall staff members.
Encourage involvement on campus. Concordia has dozens of ways to get involved, serve others and develop their leadership skills. Students who are engaged in campus life are less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs.
Be a good role model. Evaluate your own use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription medicines, and even over-the-counter drugs. Consider how your attitudes and actions may be shaping your son or daughter's choice about whether or not to use alcohol or other drugs.
"Alcohol, Other Drugs, and College: A Parent's Guide" (http://www.higheredcenter.org) &
"College Fact Sheet for Parents" (http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov)