Back to School Checklist: College Edition

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If you’ve found yourself standing in your child’s unoccupied bedroom and contemplating a home gym, you might be one of the thousands of Texas parents who have sent their young adults off to college this fall.

By now, your student is settling into their new dorm room or apartment, getting used to new routines, new environments, and newfound freedom. For some students, all this new-ness can be overwhelming. Especially when you factor in the new opportunities for drinking and attending parties without adult supervision.

After all, rates of alcohol use are higher for college students than for their non-college-attending peers. And for freshman, the first six weeks of college are “the most vulnerable time for harmful and underage college drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year.”

As a parent, you may be thinking your job is done and you’ve laid the best foundation you can. Your baby has left the nest and must now learn to fly.

But there’s much to be said (and a lot of research) about continuing to stay involved in your kids’ lives, even from afar, and how it can have an impact on their decision-making processes. And in 2018, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to check in with your kid. (Think back to when you were their age: Remember long-distance phone calls that charged by the minute? And collect calls that cost as much a biology textbook?)

Pre-college talks and regularly reaching out to your student – through email, FaceTime, Skype, or an old-fashioned phone call – can be key to helping them achieve academic success while staying safe and healthy. And a conversation doesn’t have to be a lecture about the dangers of drinking alcohol, it can truly be a conversation. (See below for a list of questions that can help you jumpstart those talks.)

Whether they’re in middle school, high school, or college, your child is never too old to continue having conversations with you about the dangers and unintended consequences of underage drinking. You might even want to consider making your position on underage drinking official. (We love this family agreement form, courtesy of SAHMSA.) It’s also important to remind your child that, despite what people may say or think, drinking isn’t the norm for all college students. In fact, a lot of them (about 40%) don’t drink at all.

Still, your student may not be affected by statistics – like the fact that more than 1,500 college students die each year because of drinking. And they may not blink if you tell them more than 1/3 of college students report binge drinking within the last month. (These are the kinds of statistics that keep parents, not kids, awake at night!)

But knowing you are concerned and interested in their lives, especially in their first year of college, can have a profound impact on their drinking behavior. And research does show that if your kids clearly know that you do not condone drinking underage, they are less likely to do it. That kind of influence will keep them safe and healthy long after they’ve flown the nest.

At Texans Standing Tall, we also care about your college student’s success! For additional resources, support, or information about our college alcohol prevention efforts, contact Tammy Peck at tpeck@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501.

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