Information for Parents

Starting college is a time of transition for both the student and the parent. The student is adjusting to increasing independence, while the parent is adjusting to decreased involvement in their student's life. This transition involves changing the relationship from adult-child to adult-adult. Below are some suggestions that may help you negotiate this process.


Transitioning to an Adult-Adult Relationship

To keep communication open, it may be helpful to...

  •        Stay in touch

  •        Show interest

  •        Be a good listener

  •        Keep an open mind

  •        Be encouraging


Stay informed by...

  • Understanding the campus resources that are available for your student and encouraging your student to take advantage of these resources.

  • It may be necessary to become more involved when sad telephone calls home outnumber the other calls.

  • It is reasonable to become concerned about your student if he/she

    • experiences significant weight gain/loss

    • experiences frequent illnesses

    • experiences excessive fatigue

    • changes behavior or appearance

    • talks of hopelessness or lack of purpose

If you become concerned, please contact the University Counseling Center or one of the other resources available on campus.

Coping with your Student leaving for College

  • Ambivalence is normal.

  • Feel the emotions. Disregarding our feelings is not helpful or healthy.

  • Pay attention to keeping yourself active and healthy.

  • Recognize the importance of your child going to college and becoming independent.

  • Find an outlet for yourself.


Discussing Spring Break with your Student

1. Safety First.

Talk to your student about their health and personal / physical safety and the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption (fighting, drunk driving, rape, etc.).

2. Traveling in Pairs

Talk to your student about how to travel safely. Ideas such as having money ready for taxicabs, carrying health insurance information and never travelling alone are helpful.

3. Using a tour company

If your student is using a tour company, ask to see the promotional materials that helped your college student decide on this particular trip/company. Make sure that the company is reputable. You may not want to use a tour company that encourages alcohol consumption in order to influence students' decisions.

4. Get information.

Gather contact information for the hotel(s) in which they will be staying as well as cell numbers for their friends.

5. Set limits regarding alcohol consumption.

Talk about the acceptable use and the limits of alcohol intake.

Make sure they know the signs of alcohol poisoning in order to protect themselves and their peers.

Make sure that your student understands the use of alcohol and its dehydrating effects.

If your student is under the legal drinking age, make sure that their spring break destination has the same drinking age limits as at home. Some international destinations allow students as young as 18 to legally purchase alcohol.

6. Other suggestions.

Provide your student with a pre-paid calling card and /or cell phone. Negotiate regular check-in times.

Offer to cover the cost for them to participate with an alternative spring break program.

Source: A Matter of Degree: The National Effort to Reduce High Risk Drinking Among College Students


Discussing Alcohol Consumption with your Student

1. Communicate Clearly

Anticipate potential situations to which your student may be exposed. Role play or discuss strategies that will enable your student to deal with these situations. For instance, "You're at a party, and the person who drove you to the party has been drinking. What will you do?" 

Listen carefully to your student's thoughts and feelings

Lecturing is not generally helpful.

2. Communicate academic expectations.

Clearly communicate your expectations regarding academic performance. Be prepared to initiate this discussion face to face and not over the telephone. Research studies indicate that partying may contribute as much to a student's decline in grades as difficulty with academic work.

3. Communicate alcohol facts.

Students must know that alcohol is toxic and too much consumption can be fatal. This means that engaging in drinking games, dares/bets, etc. can be dangerous. You do not need to exaggerate. Let the facts speak for themselves on this one.

4. Take a firm stance.

Let your student know that it is OK to intervene when a friend is in trouble with alcohol.

Students must know that it is acceptable to stand up for a safe campus environment. Students who do not drink are at times affected by those who do. Tell your student to talk to the offender or to their residence hall manager.

5. Know about alcohol consumption on campus.

Talk to your student about alcohol consumption. Often times, students exaggerate their peers' use of alcohol. They tend to act on what they perceive to be the norm. Make this an ongoing discussion as opposed to a one-time lecture. Look for and create "teachable moments," by using TV news or newspaper articles that deal with substance use.

6. Avoid normalizing inappropriate alcohol consumption.

Avoid telling tales of drinking exploits from your own college years. Entertaining students with stories of drinking back "in the good old days" normalizes what, even then, was abnormal behavior.

Avoid contradictions between your words and actions.

7. Encourage volunteerism.

Encourage your student to volunteer in the community. Volunteerism not only structures free time but also provides students with a chance to develop skills and gain valuable experience.

8. Clarify that alcohol must be used legally and responsibly.

Make it clear that under age alcohol consumption and alcohol impaired driving is against the law.

Make it clear that if your student is of age and does drink, he/she should be a positive role model in the responsible use of alcohol.

9. If your student does become intoxicated ...

Don't attempt to talk to your student while he/she is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Wait until the next day.

If you are concerned about the immediate health of your student, get medical help immediately.