Parents: A Primary Influence

As a parent you continue to be a primary influence in your son's or daughter's life. You are key in helping them choose the right college so that they get the best education possible. At the same time, you also need to ensure that when they go off to college they live in a safe environment. There are three distinct stages in which you, as a parent, contribute in critical ways to the decisionmaking involving your college-bound son or daughter:

Parents of a College Freshman—Staying Involved

Pay special attention to your son's or daughter's experiences and activities during the crucial first 6 weeks on campus. With a great deal of free time, many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college, and the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaptation to campus life. You should know that about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year.

  • Be familiar with the name of the person who is responsible for campus counseling programs.http://www2.ucsc.edu/counsel/services.html
  • Call your son or daughter frequently during the first 6 weeks of college.
  • Inquire about their roommates, the roommates' behavior, and how disagreements are settled or disruptive behavior dealt with.
  • Make sure that your son or daughter understands the penalties for underage drinking, public drunkenness, using a fake ID, driving under the influence, assault, and other alcohol-related offenses. Indicate to them that you have asked the college/university to keep you informed of infractions to school alcohol policies.
  • Make certain that they understand how alcohol use can lead to date rape, violence, and academic failure.

Parents of a College Student Facing an Alcohol-Related Crisis—Getting Assistance

  • Be aware of the signs of possible alcohol abuse by your son or daughter (e.g., lower grades, never available or reluctant to talk with you, unwilling to talk about activities with friends, trouble with campus authorities, serious mood changes).
  • If you believe your son or daughter is having a problem with alcohol, do not blame them, but find appropriate treatment.
  • Call and/or visit campus health services and counseling and psychological services and ask to speak with a counselor.
  • Indicate to the Dean of Students, either in person or by email, your interest in the welfare of your son or daughter and that you want to be actively involved in his or her recovery despite the geographic separation.
  • If your son or daughter is concerned about his or her alcohol consumption, or that of a friend, have them check out www.alcoholscreening.org for information about ongoing screening for problems with alcohol.
  • Pay your son or daughter an unexpected visit. Ask to meet their friends. Attend Parents' Weekend and other campus events open to parents.
  • Continue to stay actively involved in the life of your son or daughter. Even though they may be away at college, they continue to be an extension of your family and its values.

In 1999, a majority of college and university presidents identified alcohol abuse as one of the greatest problems facing campus life and students. A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges presents a series of recommendations to college presidents, researchers, parents, and students to deal with this continuing public health problem in a scientific and sensible way. We encourage parents to continue to educate themselves by referring to and using the materials at www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.

Early Weeks Are Critical

As the fall quarter begins, parents can use this important time to help prepare their college-age sons and daughters by talking with them about the consequences of excessive drinking.

This rapid increase in heavy drinking over a relatively short period of time can contribute to serious difficulties with the transition to college.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the first 6 weeks of the first quarter are critical to a first-year student’s academic success. Because many students initiate heavy drinking during these early days of college, the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaptation to campus life. The transition to college is often difficult and about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year.

Parents Can Help

During these crucial early weeks, parents can do a variety of things to stay involved.

  • They can inquire about campus alcohol policies, call their sons and daughters frequently, and ask about roommates and living arrangements.
  • They should also discuss the penalties for underage drinking as well as how alcohol use can lead to date rape, violence, and academic failure.

Resources Are Available

For parents who want to talk to their college-age sons and daughters about the consequences of college drinking, a variety of helpful resources are available.

The Task Force’s award-winning website, www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov
features a guide along with links to alcohol policies at colleges across the country, an interactive diagram of the human body and how alcohol affects it, an interactive alcohol cost calculator, and the full text of all Task Force materials.