It is that time of year when your child is becoming a young adult and headed off to college. Checklists are being marked off. School supplies and college dorm room essentials are being bought. While everyone is running around from store to store, it’s also important to take time, sit down, and talk about all the situations they might encounter. Marijuana, alcohol, and other illicit drugs are a very common occurrence in a college environment. Talking to your child about these situations will help them understand the severity of these topics and give them a good understanding of substance abuse. However, before you sit down and have “the talk,” make sure to read and understand these key points.
Tone is Everything
When your child is becoming a young adult and heading into college, the tone of the conversation should shift from an “enforcing and parental” tone to a “helping and guiding” one. Even though they are your child, don’t talk to them as if they are still a child. Think of it as if one of your friends were talking to you. I’m sure you wouldn’t care about the conversation too much if they were talking down or acting like a parent towards you. Keeping this in mind will not only help how you word the conversation, but it will keep the conversation flowing even after the initial talk. This may seem difficult or maybe even a bit awkward at first, just remember this: This is a conversation. Not a lecture.
Know Your Facts
Keep up to date with drug and alcohol statistics for teens and college-aged young adults. Yes, this might mean doing research, but The National Institute on Drug Abuse creates easy-to-read fact sheets. Be sure to get all the facts to prepare yourself for the conversation. Death Rate, Assault Rate, Sexual Abuse, Health Problems/Injury, Academic Issues, and Suicide Attempts are all major key points that should be talked about. Make sure your kids read and understand these facts with you but also bring up these topics in a nurturing light. If not, drowning them with statistics and facts will only distance themselves from the conversation and get you nowhere.
Be Open about Your Experiences
Yes, your child will most likely ask you about your experiences with drugs, if any, and that’s okay! You need to be prepared to talk about these experiences, good or bad. They might even tell you if you drank/did drugs in college that it’ll be fine if they do too. However, you need to discuss how you do not want them to make the same mistakes in college that you did. Talk about why you regret your decision to binge drink, try drugs, etc. You’re passing your wisdom onto them in order for them to learn from your mistakes.
Keep the Conversation Open
Even after the initial conversation, having smaller conversations that lead back to the initial talk can really drive the point home. Doing this will also make the topic less awkward in the long run. This will also allow your child to open up to you more and be more truthful about what is happening in their lives. The main goal is to keep the pathway of conversation open and not block it.
Ask Questions and Do Research
It’s perfectly fine if you don’t have all the answers to their questions. No one expects you to! If your child asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, look it up together. Ask your child questions too. Have they heard of certain drugs? What do they know about them? This will not only help them feel important to the conversation, but also allow you to see into their world better.
Once you are able to take these five key points and implement them into your conversation with your child, the rest should come easy. Talking to your kids about illicit drugs and alcohol should not be a scary and/or daunting scenario. College is a miraculous time that is full of learning and creating new life experiences. With that being said, your child needs to understand the difference between life experiences that will help build them up and ones that can tear them down.