Timing can be critical when talking with new students about substance use.
“There is a ton of research, specifically related to alcohol, that indicates that having conversations before students even arrive at college actually decreases their risk of high-risk drinking behaviors. “, said Ashley LeDuc, associate director of Hokie Wellness. “The beliefs, values and norms of their families are often the most influential factors in reducing the risk of students developing alcohol and other substance abuse problems.”
Hokie Wellness aims to foster a healthier Virginia Tech community by providing prevention services, education, and resources to students and employees. As part of this mission, LeDuc and other members of the Alcohol and Other Drugs team at Hokie Wellness recently developed a family guide for having these important discussions.
“Having an open and honest conversation with students about substance use can be difficult or embarrassing, especially if it’s your first time talking to them about these topics,” LeDuc said. “We wanted to create a guide that would help parents navigate these important discussions and encourage them to maintain an ongoing dialogue throughout the year.”
In addition to conversation tips, the guide includes information on state laws and campus policies, facts about student drug and alcohol use, and a variety of campus resources available to students. Alcohol is the main focus of the guide, but it also includes information on cannabis, which is now legal in Virginia but banned in Virginia Tech campuses in accordance with federal law.
LeDuc said a good place to start a conversation that’s both authentic and applicable is simply to specifically acknowledge the often-perceived role of alcohol when it comes to socializing in the first weeks of the new school year.
“Recognizing that a lot of freshmen chose to drink in those first two weeks just because they’re trying to make friends is important,” LeDuc said. “Having a conversation about this and sharing ways students can connect with others that don’t include alcohol can go a long way to reducing the chances of students engaging in some of these drinking behaviors. high risk.”
Here are some other tips LeDuc shared to help parents make the most of these important conversations:
Think about your personal feelings about alcohol and drug use before the discussion.
“As a parent or guardian, a message of zero tolerance – no alcohol is best, and certainly not excessive amounts – is strongly advised. We recognize that everyone has different parenting styles and setting that kind of expectation can This area may or may not fall in. However, it should be clear to your student where you stand on this topic as it can have a powerful impact on when, where and how they choose to drink, if at all. ‘coming.
Set a specific time to talk to make sure everyone is ready and open for conversation.
“When it’s time to have the conversation, create a non-judgmental space where your student can honestly share any questions or concerns they have about going to college and being exposed to the culture of drinking on campus. Be prepared to ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation going.
Focus more on the most common consequences rather than the most dramatic ones.
“While you absolutely can discuss the harms and serious consequences that can result from excessive drinking, it’s actually more effective to mention the less serious outcomes, like doing something reckless or embarrassing. Focusing on your student’s long-term goals academically, socially, and financially can also be a useful strategy when discussing the effects of alcohol consumption.Research shows that students who drink excessively are more likely to have lower GPAs, are less likely to graduate, accept less prestigious jobs, and then end up with lower lifetime earnings.
Avoid generalizations like “everyone drinks in college” and focus instead on the facts related to substance use.
“Many students don’t understand or underestimate the impact alcohol has on their bodies, so it’s essential that you help your student understand what’s really going on when they drink. This can help them make the decision to abstain more easily if they understand that drinking is not contributing to their goals, or at the very least, make safer decisions if they choose to drink. Check out our Alcohol Resources page before speaking with your student to learn more about blood alcohol concentration (BAC), impairment, factors that affect BP, and more. It’s also a great resource to share with your student. »
Make this conversation the start of an ongoing dialogue.
“We encourage conversations that naturally allow your student to share their experiences and concerns about alcohol use. For example, instead of asking directly “did you drink in your dormitory”, try asking “how did you live in the dormitory” or “what the students in your dormitory do for fun”, to allow for a greater organic transition to the theme of alcohol.
As part of this ongoing conversation, Hokie Wellness will be adding additional conversation tips and facts throughout the college year. These will focus on specific potential high-risk events such as tailgating, Halloween, and spring break.
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Written by Travis Williams