It’s getting to be that time of year. Parents are gearing up for their kids to head back to college, or maybe you’re even dropping them off at their freshman dorm for the first time. Cue the tears. You worry about them, of course. Will they get enough sleep? Will they be homesick? Will they be eating well?
Have you also considered how they will spend their down time? We would be naive to think our kids won’t at least experiment with drugs and alcohol at some point during their college years. Have you talked with them about the dangers? Have they rolled their eyes and dismissed you as an old person who is out of touch and just doesn’t understand? Talking about substance abuse isn’t always pleasant, but it needs to be done, especially when we release our children into a world of independence.
Dean Porterfield, Director of ARCH Academy, our treatment center for teen boys, says be direct and discuss facts when talking with your child.
“Acknowledge that the opportunity to drink or use will present itself, and that you understand the attraction but weigh it out with the potential costs. The freshman year is a tough year and it weeds out a lot kids who won’t make it to their sophomore year due to grades and inability to manage a schedule. Do discuss a plan if they do find themselves in a situation in which they have consumed substances. For example take an Uber/Lyft or call parents without judgement,” said Dean.
If you don’t talk to your child about drinking and drugs who will? Being open and honest will promote a relationship that allows your child to feel they can reach out. If you feel you are unable to develop that relationship, consider contacting a therapist.
Unfortunately, there is a culture of binge drinking in college. Look no further than any movie or TV show that takes place on a college campus. Many students feel it’s just a part of the experience, and as long as they show up to class and get decent grades it’s not an issue.
“Many students feel that if they can go all week without a drink and just party on the weekends they don’t have a problem. Or maybe they justify after a long week they have earned the right to get trashed over the weekend,” said Dean.
The truth is there are many college students who will go through their four years with this kind of thinking. They will likely abuse alcohol or drugs during this time and go on to live a life free from addiction. But some of them won’t. Addiction impacts nearly 20 million Americans. It should not be a taboo subject in your home. Talk about it. Listen. Educate. You may save a life.