College is a turning point in the relationship between a parent and student. As you and your student transition, we encourage you to use these talking points to start conversations about your student’s well-being on campus.
Determining your level of communication in advance will keep parents informed and connected, while fostering the student’s sense of independence.
- Given the many ways we can communicate these days (cell phone, texting, e-mail, and social media), students and their parents should agree on how, and how often, they plan to communicate during the school year. Setting a day and time to call can be helpful. Many students find that Sunday evenings are often best. Discuss if you plan to send e-mails too. If weeks pass without hearing from your student, you may want to check in and make sure everything is going smoothly.
- Talk about how often you will visit each other. Will you be in town for Family Weekend? Do you expect your child to come home over three-day weekends? Fall Break?
- Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to talk to your student if you think something is wrong. You may be in the best position to notice and address any difficulties that your child is having.
- It is common for mental health problems to appear for the first time during the college years, so you may want to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms.
- Encourage your student to go to the counseling center if one or both of you think it is necessary. Reassure your student counseling services are provided confidentially and you support them as he or she reaches out for assistance.
- Make sure your student knows where the Student Health Center is located when they arrive on campus. It is important to know where the SHC is before he or she gets sick or needs help. Encourage your student to learn about the service fees the health center charges, as well as the services offered.
- Your student needs to know his or her medical history. Make copies of your student’s health charts and include a list of medications/doses/directions, allergies, and refills for prescriptions. Also make sure your student has his or her health insurance card.
- Visit the University Recreation Center (REC) with your student while on campus. One way to combat a stressful college lifestyle is by regularly utilizing the REC Center. Exercising and participating in team activities lowers stress, depression, sleep issues, and eating problems.
- You need to talk to your student about sex. It is a fear for all parents, and you need to have a frank discussion about your values and about sex in general. Go over your concerns about all issues related to sex, everything from birth control to infections.
Easy tips to enhance your student’s success
- Go to class. Students can get caught up with extra-curricular activities and forget about class, especially if he or she has 8:00 a.m. classes. Remind your student that going to class is vital to their grades. Not going can result in a deduction in attendance and participation grades. While it may not result in failure of the course, it may cause an A to be a B, or worse.
- Study. Studying can be difficult if the subject does not particularly appeal to your student or if her or she does not understand the material. Stress the importance of studying to your student. Encourage him or her to participate in study groups and tutoring if necessary. Making an effort shows the professor he or she is trying. If additional help is needed encourage them to meet with their professors and express their concerns.
- Review your material. One effective way to study is to review material a little each week. This way your student will build a foundation for the next class and solidify their understanding on the big picture level.
- Balance your time. Suggest to your student, the importance of some kind of time management. Whether it is using a planner or making a to-do list, knowing important deadlines and assignments will keep your student on top of their studies.
- Work before play. Everyone wants to have fun, but it is important work and assignments are finished first. Encourage your student to complete his or her homework before doing extra-curricular activities. This way he or she can enjoy themselves, without worrying and staying up late to get their assignment done last minute.
- Meet with his or her advisor. Schools provide staff to students that can advise him or her on class schedules, future internships and possible change of majors. Using advisors as a source of information and counsel is crucial to a stress-free academic experience. The last thing your student needs is to discover he or she is taking a class that does not count. It is a waste of time and money.
- Know the resources. Many on-campus offices offer resources that can make your students academic pursuits easier. The Career Center can help your student secure an internship in their field, the Center for Academic Success can provide free tutoring services, and the Registrar’s office can keep your student informed about important dates. Knowing where to find pertinent information is crucial. If your student is unsure about what the University has to offer, encourage them to check with the Dean of Students office for more information.
Drinking and Driving
- Think before you drink. Remind your student to make sure class work and assignments are finished before relaxing and having fun. If they have an early morning class or a test the next day, it might not be the best idea for them to go out the night before. Explain this to your student.
- Be smart. Encourage your student to stop and think about how much they have had to drink. Remind your student to stop and think, is it safe to drive? Encourage him or her to explore other modes of transportation like 348-RIDE (7433), a free service provided by the University.
- Know your limit, and stick to it. Let your student know the risks if they drink too much. Talk through this with him or her. Knowing your limit can prevent bad decisions and possible harm.
- Take care of your friends. Some students may not have the ability to know when he or she has had too much or when not to drive. Encourage your student to take care of their friends and make sure everyone in their group is safe. Stress the importance of making good decisions; riding home with a new “friend” is not a good decision.
- Listen. Listen to your student and what he or she tells you. If something he or she says concerns you, talk about the importance of being safe.
- Be open. While you may not want your student drinking, it is a safe assumption you definitely do not want he or she drinking and driving. Try not to judge your student for his or her actions. Be open and listen to what your student has to say. Knowing you are open to hearing his or her perspective will encourage open communication.
- Have discussions with your student about expectations regarding drug use. During these conversations, clear up some of the misperceptions surrounding drug use. Be careful to convey an open mind.
- Do not let distance discourage you from trying to learn about your student’s daily life. Talk with your student on a regular basis, especially in these weeks as he or she prepares for college. Once they’re on campus, try to keep a good read on how life away from home is going. Maintain communication and ask specific questions that will give you an indication of how he or she is handling the daily pressures, both academic and social.
- If you ever suspect that your student may have a problem, address it immediately. The longer you brush a problem aside, the worse it becomes.
- Encourage your student to think long-term about how drug use can affect his or her life and life goals. No matter what, remember even the best of students make mistakes. Don’t give up on your student.
Things to Know About Drug Use
- Street Drugs – Many illicit drugs that have long been part of the street scene are a noticeable presence on campus as well. Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug in the United States, and its use among college students has increased over the past several years.
- Performance Enhancing Drugs – Anabolic steroids are misused by students who want to enhance their athletic performance and improve their appearance. Ephedra, commonly abused as an over-the-counter weight loss substance, has many dangerous side effects.
- Date Rape and Club Drugs – The most widespread illicit drugs used for sexual assault are GHB, Ketamine, and Rohypnol. These drugs, along with Ecstasy, LSD, and Methamphetamine, are considered club drugs.
- Prescription Drugs – In recent years, Ritalin has become one of the most abused prescription drugs, with many college students using the drug to stay alert to study and while partying. OxyContin has recently gained notoriety as a commonly misused prescription narcotic pain reliever. (Information from the Center for College Health and Safety)