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How to Speak to Your Student About Responsible Substance Use

Part of successfully transitioning to college is a student’s ability  to make wise choices for themselves.

Maybe it’s the first time sending your student off to college or maybe they’re  coming back as returning students.

Either way, as a parent or guardian you have a lot to think about. Is my student prepared? Have we given them the tools they need to succeed? Part of successfully transitioning to college is a student’ ability to make wise choices for themselves.

When it comes to substance misuse, most parents are not surprised to learn that students who use drugs and alcohol, even occasionally, typically have lower GPAs, miss more classes, and can take a longer time to graduate.

Purchase has your back by offering ample on-campus, confidential resources for students.

There are a few things a parent or guardian can do from home to provide support. Here are some tips on how to help your student avoid the consequences of substance misuse, overuse, or high-risk substance use:

  1. Establish good communication: Some students find it easy to communicate via text message on a daily basis and some prefer to call their families. Whichever method of communication works between you and your student, establish that routine early on. Keeping good communication can help you identify when something isn’t right or when your student may need a little extra support.
  2. Clarify your values around alcohol, tobacco and other drugs: Student whose parents have a “no-use” expectation clearly communicated to their student are less likely to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The less likely a student is to use, the less likely they are to experience the negative consequences of use. Be careful to avoid messages that support expectations for substance use in college like “I know you are going to use, so when you do, make sure…” It is important to recognize the majority of our Purchase students are not using drugs and your student may chose not to use as well.
  3. Get knowledgeable about why it’s important for your student to avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs: There are some fantastic online resources to help parents get informed about substance misuse. Some of these include Campus Drug Prevention, Power to the Parent and Talk 2 Prevent. You can also pop over to the Wellness Center’s webpage or Instagram account to see educational blurbs and learn about the substance free programming we offer for students.
  4. Communicate the importance of maintaining their wellness: Many students who do report using drugs and alcohol report that they do so because they are experiencing some uncomfortable feelings and possibly are not maintaining some form of their wellness. Whether it is neglecting their mental/emotional, physical, financial, or spiritual needs, it is important for students to recognize the importance of balance in wellness.
  5. Ask the difficult questions: Ask your students directly about their substance use and be prepared to communicate your expectations in a non-shaming and non-judgmental way. Remember compassionate inquiry may result in a more sharing conversation than an inquisition.
  6. Intervene at the first sign of trouble: If you are concerned about your student, encourage them to seek help. The Wellness Center is a confidential place where your student can come and talk about their substance use and whether or not they are ready to make a change.

    The Wellness Center is located on the ground floor of Fort Awesome, (914)-251-6665. If you’re concerned about substance use, the Wellness Center can conduct a confidential outreach attempt with your student.

    We can also help you walk through challenges you may be facing with your student. For more urgent concerns or mental health issues, the Counseling Center is also available as a resource (914) 251-6390 and has a crisis counselor on call evenings and weekends that can be accessed by calling the University Police Department at (914) 251-6911.