Parent Power

Today's college students are making healthier decisions than ever.  According to many national studies, the majority of college students drink moderately, if at all.  Drinking alcoholic beverages is at a record low level.  These are the "true norms."  In fact, there is a grass roots movement among prevention educators called "social norming."  The premise is quite simple, if the general impression is that most students don't drink alcohol, then those who do drink will drink less, and fewer will start drinking in the first place.  The social norming effort is showing results by promoting health, not death and destruction by using scare tactics.  The key is not to over-report the incidences of dangerous drinking that occur, and to broadly promote the general good health of students so that it is perceived as normal not to drink.  The students who hear the good news of social norming are far less threatened by peer pressure and drinking to "fit in" or "belong."

Study after study shows that parents have an enormous influence on their student's behavior.  The parent-student relationship is truly the bottom-line.  Students who develop a relationship with their parents tend to live up to parental expectations.  A few tips to enhance this relationship include: 

  • Spending one-on-one time with your son or daughter.
  • Setting clear and realistic expectations of their behavior, including the use of alcohol and drugs.
  • Developing appropriate consequences for breaking rules and consistently enforcing them.
  • Offering acceptance and avoiding hurtful teasing or criticism.
  • Making sure they know how much you appreciate their efforts and accomplishments.
  • Respecting their growing up and their need for independence and privacy.

Most importantly, continuing the dialog with your student about life, responsibility, and healthy decision-making after they leave for college.  Several specific suggestions to enhance this dialog include:

  • Find out what your student knows or thinks he/she knows about alcohol and drugs!  Share important facts and separate them from your opinions.  This avoids inducing guilt or making threats.
  • Ask open-ended questions such as, "What is the party scene like?" or "What will you do if your roommate only wants to drink and party?" or "What is the college's policy on alcohol use on campus?"
  • Control your emotions.  If you hear something you don't like, try not to respond with anger.  Cool down and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive way.
  • Respect your student's viewpoint.  Make every conversation a win-win situation.
  • Choose your time for talking wisely.  Relaxed downtime is far better than times of conflict.  It is best to have many short conversations with limited information during each dialog.
  • While watching television and commercials point out the dangerous myths that are portrayed about alcohol use.
  • Don't use scare tactics excessively or exclusively.  Point out good reasons not to drink such as maintaining self-respect.
  • Teach your student how to handle peer pressure.  Brainstorm specific ideas for ways for your student to get out of a difficult situation.  Give them some one-line starters such as, "No thanks, I don't feel like it.  Do you have a soda?" or "Why do you keep pressing me when I've said no?"
  • Use your own style of communication and choose ideas you are comfortable with for open discussion with your student.  Remember that during the past several years, you have helped your student to build a strong foundation for good decision-making and self-sufficiency.

It is illegal for a student under the age of 21 to drink alcoholic beverages and alcohol is not permitted on the Potomac State College campus.  There are consequences associated with breaking the law, in addition, the college has a zero tolerance to alcohol and drugs.  


If you need further information, please contact Psychological Counseling Services by telephone at (304) 788-6976 or simply stop by the office located on the base floor of the Health Center.