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Building 27 Room 135

Talking About Substance Use: Tips for Parents

J. D. Muth © 2009--Photo taken March 10, 2009 on Sulphur Mountain, in Upper Ojai.

  Talking About Substance Use: Tips for Parents

  • Identify your expectations for your student about drinking and drug use. Make sure your expectations are reasonable, well thought out, and convey trust and support. Communicate those expectations before they pack their bags and keep in touch throughout their college career.
  • Let them know about any family history of alcohol and/or drug abuse. The genetic risks for substance abuse can make it hard for students to drink or use in a moderate or controlled way. In addition, they often believe they are too young and too smart to let themselves become dependent on a substance. Willpower cannot override the genetic predisposition to chemical dependency. Young, bright students can and do become chemically dependent.
  • Ask your student about his/her expectations of college and drinking/drug use. Correct those that seem inflated. Many students will come to college with false pretenses, having heard stories from the media, older siblings, and even parents about all the drinking and partying that takes place in college. While many students do drink or smoke, many do so moderately and there are many others who don't use at all. Talk with them about getting involved in activities that don't involve alcohol or drug use. 
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Make yourself available to them if they need to talk. Try to answer their questions openly and honestly. If they do experience negative consequences of alcohol or drug use, keep an open mind and remain calm, even if they tell you things that are shocking. If you express too much anger or judgment over their behavior, they may not feel comfortable sharing with you in the future. By putting your emotions aside and listening, you may learn a lot that will better prepare you to guide them toward healthier decisions in the future.
  • For more information, please visit The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


At Counseling Services we meet with students on a voluntary basis. Our Alcohol and Other Drug Specialists have expertise in working with students with substance use and abuse issues.



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