I wish I’d known a lot more before heading off to college. Parents should take the time to talk with their kids because we need their wisdom, and we really want it. There is a huge myth that kids don’t listen to their parents.
That giving advice is useless and makes no difference. Wrong and Wrong again. While your kids may appear uninterested in guidance from you, research shows that teens who have open and honest communication with parents about drugs and alcohol are 50% less likely to use these substances. That’s a significant difference that makes a seemingly pointless conversation worth having anyway. Full disclosure: DO NOT COVER ALL TOPICS OVER ONE LUNCH. Ideally these conversations take place for years during grade school. But if you’re just starting out when your kids are already in their teens, don’t be shy about finding opportunities during the summer to ask questions and bring up these heavy topics.
- Drinking Limits- I wish I had been told how to stay safe at a college party. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism college freshmen are the most susceptible to alcohol-related consequences such as alcohol poisoning, assault and DUIs in their first 6 weeks. (Call your teen often the first 6 weeks of college.) This is a critical time that could make or break their collegiate career. Recently colleges have been partnering with their local police departments, now college kids could be in trouble with the law AND their university. Talk to your kids about what they think a safe drinking limit is, teach them about Blood Alcohol limits and how each additional drink will affect them. Remind them to keep any beverages covered so someone can’t put something in it. Almost 8% of all college students say their drinks have been drugged according to Partnership for Drug Free Kids. Remind your teen that you are a safe person to go to without the risk of judgment or punishment. They will remember these conversations even if they don’t admit it.
- Finances- I wish I had taught me how to budget my limited funds. College freshmen don’t usually have money of their own and if they do it is a very humble paycheck that consists of 15 hours a week of minimum wage. This is often a blessing in disguise since you can’t go party if you are broke. That being said, eventually college students start making money and then the decisions get harder. When I was in college I would buy beer and forget to get food. Money management is one of the most essential conversations you can have with your child.
- Drugs- I wish I had been shown what party drugs looked like and what they did. Half of all full time college students abuse prescription and illegal drugs. The numbers are shocking and I can honestly say that up until about a year ago I was naïve about pretty much every drug. I was familiar with marijuana because of its common use in high schools but no one ever told me about cocaine, acid, LSD and other synthetic drugs that have the potential to cause serious damage and sometimes even death after just one use. So when kids go off to college and know nothing about these drugs they get the facts from their friends who also have no idea what they’re talking about and think they are harmless and so the cycle continues. Sit together and google what is out there. Your teen will be impressed you cared enough to get out of your comfort zone to keep them safe. Even simple facts about the common party drugs can make the difference between a night of experimenting and a night of saying no.
- Healthy Relationships- I wish I had known about the dangers of the “perfect guy.” If there is one drug that has proven its power time and time again, it’s the “love drug.” Teach your kids about potential red flags in a relationship; jealousy, heavy drinking, control issues (that’s not affection or love), so they can hopefully avoid a bad relationship before committing themselves to one. Talk about healthy relationship habits and management so they can identify when something sketchy is going on and get out as soon as possible. Oh and talk about safe sex, I know it’s awkward but make sure your kids know the importance of having safe sex. Trust me they weren’t paying attention in sex-ed, they were giggling along with the rest of the class or hiding their face in horror.
- Homesickness- I wish I had known how lonely college would be at first. Once your kid moves out they are no longer included in every family activity and that will be a difficult adjustment. College can be really lonely, especially on the bigger campuses for a lot of kids. Let them know you will miss them around the house. Promise to send care packages often and then send them often. I loved getting care packages. Mentally schedule one or two days a week to connect with them, more if they are struggling. Letting them grow up is great, but being sure they feel loved is imperative.
Of course, every new college freshman is different, but I’ve seen almost every single one of my friends deal with everything listed above. Starting the conversation could save your kids’ lives. While this is not easy for most parents, your teen knows you are trying to keep them safe. They will hear the silent “I love you” and that is what we need to hear most of all.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: The Intern