Talking to Your Student

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has excellent resources available online. The information below is adapted from their site.

For many parents and students, bringing up the subject of alcohol is not easy. Start the discussion now and continue the conversation often; this is not a one time talk.

  • Try having the conversation in the car since you don’t have to look each other in the eyes and neither of you can run away from the topic.
  • Join forces with another adult that your student trusts such as an aunt, uncle, older sibling, cousin, coach, etc. Utilize these people to also have the conversation with your student about this topic.
  • After your first visit after Colonial Inauguration, after a campus tour, or before the move into their residence hall, you can easily bring up lifestyle changes that college will bring.
  • While they are at home for holidays, Spring Break, or summer is a great time to check in.
  • Bring friends into the conversation. For example, if your student’s best friend is also gearing up for college; ask their thoughts on alcohol when you are all together. Make it more of a dialogue.
  • After watching a movie portraying drug use together, you can ask questions to gauge your student's opinion on drugs.
  • You know your student; any time it feels right to bring up alcohol or other drugs is a good time.

During Discussions, Follow the 3 R’s – Recognize, Relate, and Responsibility

Recognize the social aspects of alcohol. Recognize that the student might see positive aspects of drinking such as networking and socializing. Recognize many students find it easier to follow the crowd and the majority of students do drink at some point in college. Recognize that simply telling your student to abstain will not work.

Relate to your student as best as you can, remember when you were 18? Remember that feeling of leaving your family and gaining freedom? Relate that feeling to what your student is going through; heading off into the unknown with tremendous academic strain. Remind them that you do understand.

Responsibility is now in the hands of your student.  Discuss the privileges and the consequences that come with that responsibility. No one will be there in college to make sure they make the right decisions; it is up to the student. Discussing what this responsibility means is very important.

Discussion Starters

When having a discussion with your student, take the time to remember that this is a discussion and not a lecture.

Points to remember when speaking with your student:

  • Set clear and realistic expectations regarding academic performance.
  • Alcohol is very toxic and when consumed excessively, it can be fatal.
  • Tell your student to intervene when it comes to their friend’s drinking habits especially if there are signs of an alcohol overdose.
  • Tell your student to stand up for themselves; they deserve to have a safe academic environment.
  • Get to know the alcohol scene on their campus and talk to your student about it.
  • Avoid glamorizing the stories of your own alcohol experiences in college, but still be honest.
  • Encourage your student to get involved on campus.

There are many different ways to approach the conversation. Take at look at these examples:

  • “I know you’re off to start your own life but please know that I’m always here for you. I respect that you’re old enough to make your own choices, but if you ever want another perspective on things, give a shout. I’ll try my hardest to help you out without judging you for your decisions. Sound good?”
  • “I know you’re going to think I’m over-protective or meddling, and I’m sorry. I just have to ask: is there a lot of drug use at your college/ in your new town? Do the new friends that you’ve made dabble in drugs at all? How do you feel about it?”

Keep the Conversation Going

Here are questions you can ask your student to keep the conversation going:

  • How are you and your roommate getting along?  Do you have similar styles in what you do for fun?
  • What have you been up to besides classes?
  • If you haven’t yet, you will at some point be faced with the decision to drink. What do you think your reaction will be?
  • Is the drinking and drug culture at GW the same or different from our home-town and in what ways?
  • Has alcohol been an issue for you at any point?
  • Did you drink with your friends at home before you came to GW?  Do you plan to drink while you are here?

Helping Your Student Say No

Help your student to come up with firm but nice responses to offers of drugs or alcohol. Reassure your student that no matter what the decision, his or her friends will respect it.

Possible Answers:

  • No, thanks.
  • No. I gotta go in a bit.
  • No, thanks I’m on the team and I don’t want to risk it.
  • A friend of mine got involved in that stuff it was really horrible for him.
  • I’m an athlete and I can’t do that stuff.
  • I can’t—if my dad ever found out, he’d be really upset.
  • No, that’s not for me.
  • No, I’m trying to say healthy for...
  • Nah. I get tested at work/school and I don’t want to risk it.
  • No, thanks. I don’t like how it makes people not act like themselves.
  • No, thanks, I’m not into that.