We hope the following talking points are helpful as you send your student off to college.
- Set clear and realistic expectations regarding academic performance.
National studies have demonstrated that partying may contribute as much to a student's decline in grades as the difficulty of his or her academic work. Let your student know that you expect sound academic work and solid grades. If they know this, they are likely to be more devoted to their studies and have less time to use alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.
- Stress that all substances can be toxic.
We're not trying to get you to use scare tactics. The fact is students die every year from alcohol poisoning, end up in the hospital having a bad reaction to marijuana, or die from a drug overdose. Encourage your students not to drink, use marijuana, or use other drugs. If they choose to do so, help them identify ways in which to drink or use in a safer manner.
- Tell your student to intervene any time their peers are in trouble.
Nothing is more tragic than a student being left to die, get an injury, or be assaulted while others fail to recognize that the student is in jeopardy or fail to call for help. Encourage your student to always get help if they believe that someone needs it. Students should learn the signs and symptoms of medical emergencies and know how to get help. Remind them that Springfield College has an amnesty policy in place if they are afraid they will get in trouble.
- Your student can be affected by the consequences of others' drinking, smoking, or use, whether they choose to drink/use or not.
Students who do not drink, smoke, or use can be affected by the behavior of those who do, ranging from interrupted study time or sleep to assault or unwanted sexual advances. This is not something they should have to put up with. Students can confront these problems directly or can ask for help from their residence life staff.
- Know the scene on campus and talk about it.
Students grossly exaggerate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. Students are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink or use to levels they perceive to be the norm. Confronting misperceptions about alcohol and marijuana use are vital. Talk to your student about what really happens on campus. Learn more about the realities of alcohol and marijuana use at Springfield College.
- Avoid glamorizing tales from your college days.
Entertaining students with stories of drinking back in "the good old days" normalizes behavior that is no longer normal. National trends suggest that students now drink, smoke, and use much less than prior generations. It also apears that you—as a parent or family member—are giving approval to dangerous alcohol consumption or illegal substance use. This is especially important for alumni and Springfield College families. A lot has changed since you were in college.
- Encourage your student to volunteer in community work.
Not only is it part of the mission of the College, volunteering provides students with opportunities to develop job-related skills and to gain valuable experience. Helping others also gives students a broader outlook and a healthier perspective on the opportunities they enjoy. Volunteer work on campus helps students further connect with their school, increasing the likelihood of staying in college.
- Make it clear that underage alcohol consumption, drug use, and impaired driving are against the law.
Parents must make it clear that they do not condone breaking the law. You should openly and clearly express disapproval of underage drinking, underage use of marijuana, dangerous alcohol consumption, and driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.
- Model positive behavior.
Whether you believe it or not, your student still watches what you do, and models their behavior on yours. If you choose to drink or use marijuana, please do so in a way that promotes responsible adult use.
Keep the Conversation Going
Call, video chat, email, and text with your student frequently, especially during the first six weeks of the semester. Ask about academics, roommate, new friends, and social activities. Visit your student on campus if possible (perhaps during Family Weekend) and ask to meet their friends.
If you're wondering how to start these ongoing conversations, try asking some of the following:
- How are your classes? What are you doing for academic work?
- What’s your roommate like?
- What have you done for fun recently?
- What’s the social scene like? Are there a lot of parties, campus activities, etc?
- Do you like living in the residence hall?
- Are you meeting a lot of new people?
- What can we do to help?
- What role do you think alcohol and/or marijuana will play in your college experience?
- What will you do if you’re with your friends and everyone is asking you to drink or smoke?
- What will you do if you find a student passed out in the bathroom?
- What are some ways you can tell others you do not want to drink or that you have reached your limit?
- How will you handle a roommate that parties more than you'd like, or brings the party back to your room?