5 Tips for Parents With College Students Going Back to School

If you’re the parent of a college student, you might experience a bittersweet feeling at the start of each school year. You know that they are one step closer to graduating and becoming an independent adult.

However, the mystery of college may frighten you as a parent. You might not always know what your college student is doing or with whom they are interacting. You may also wonder if they are engaging in dangerous behaviors, like binge drinking or drug use, or dealing with chronic stress.

Substance use permeates many college campuses. Each semester, a litany of students nationwide misuse prescription medications, illicit drugs and alcohol. But you can reduce the chances that your young adult engages in drug use or excessive drinking in several ways.

Talk to Them About Stress, Peer Pressure and Substance Use

Stress is an epidemic among college students. According to New York University, college students now report being more stressed out than students had in the past. In fact, 60 percent of college students reported that they had experienced stress that affected their ability to get work done on at least one occasion.

Talk to your college students about healthy ways to handle stress, which could include mentions of running or reading, and how untreated stress can lead to substance use. Also talk to them about the consequences of drug or alcohol misuse and about how to deal with peer pressure. Make it a conversation, not a lecture.

Learn About Drug Use

Many drugs have different effects, and people react differently to these substances. Before you can talk about the dangers of substance use, be sure to learn more about the various drugs — like stimulants, prescription opioids, marijuana and alcohol — that are common on college campuses.

Do some research, learn about the dangers of these substances and read ways to help someone dependent on drugs or alcohol. Having knowledge on drugs can allow you to better educate your college student on the dangers of substance use. You may also be more comfortable answering any questions they may have about drug or alcohol use.

Communication Is Key

It is important for your college student to know that you’re open to talking about a multitude of topics with them. Make it clear that when faced with anxiety or depression, they can talk to you about their stressful experiences.

Your college student should be comfortable talking to you about anything in their lives. A strong relationship between you and your adult child can be cathartic for you both, as they know that you are always there to offer support in times of need and you are more informed about their everyday life. If they do express concerns about college, listen intently and offer guidance when necessary.

Lead By Example

Since they were small children, your children may have looked to you for advice and guidance. Even though they are not as young as they once were, your college-aged son or daughter can still be influenced by your words and actions.

If you talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of drugs or alcohol, do not engage in substance use yourself. Your college student may be confused if you talk about the consequences of using drugs or alcohol  if they see that you’re using these substances.

Seek Help, If Needed

Attending college does not mean your son or daughter will engage in risky behaviors. If you talk to your adult child about how to handle certain aspects of college, they could be less likely to experience health, social or legal problems as a student. In fact, a study by the University of Texas at Austin found that college students of parents who cared about their drinking behaviors drank less.

Most college students dealing with mental health or substance use disorders do not seek assistance. As a result, their addiction or mental health problems worsen. A severe substance use disorder or mental illness can increases the risk of long-term health problems, overdose or suicide.

You should always be cognizant of your child’s well-being. When they visit during semester breaks, look for evidence of drug or alcohol use. People who regularly engage in substance use or deal with mental illness often experience behavioral chances, exhibit irritability and may have trouble sleeping.

Ask your college-aged child about their stress levels. If they are exhibiting signs of depression or symptoms of a substance use disorder, seek professional help. Addiction and mental health resources are available throughout the United States.

If your adult child is dealing with a mental health or substance use disorder, seek professional help. The Recovery Village offers treatment for people grappling with substance use or mental health disorders. Trained addiction experts employ evidence-based techniques to help people learn to better manage their health disorders. Contact The Recovery Village to learn how treatment can help you live a happier, healthier life.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.