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University Counseling Center

Guide for Parents of College Students

The Millennial Generation

Your college student is considered a member of the Millennial Generation. Like all generations, Millennial's substantially differ from the generations before, they have grown up with access to the internet and seen technology take various turns. Compared to previous generations, Millennial's are more numerous, better educated, and more ethnically diverse. This generation shows great promise as major contributors to society. For example, they show many positive social habits, such as a focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty, and prosocial conduct. Other characteristics of this generation include high levels of parental involvement, being somewhat sheltered, being optimistic, and being technologically adept. They also seem to desire structured activities and feel pressured to make the "right" choices. Follow this link for additional information regarding this generation

Helping your college student transition
Communication is one of the keys to helping your child adjust to college. This is a time of major life changes and increased responsibilities. Although, you may no longer be in the next room to offer support, open communication is an important way to offer support during the transition to college.

Listen to a which discusses the influence of parents in teenage drinking.

What can you do?
As your child embarks on the role as a college student, your role as a parent changes, not diminishes. You are still an important confidant and source of support for your student. Here are some suggestions for supporting your college student.
1. Discuss facts and risk factors of alcohol and drug use with your college student.
2. Discuss clear and realistic expectations concerning academics, finances, and drug and alcohol use.
3. Discuss their perception of the UW social scene.
4. Discuss the balance of academics and being social.
5. Be a good role model.
6. Engage your college student in a continuous dialog regarding alcohol and drug use. Make sure that you listen to them.

Stress and Coping
Being in older adolescence is a time of stress, the adolescent is attempting to meet and exceed milestones and discover what it takes to be a successful adult. In order to effectively cope with these stressors, having a toolbox full of coping strategies is very important and beneficial. If the older adolescent does not have these coping strategies, their risk of alcohol and drug problems, academic and social difficulties, and risk of psychological problems increases. However, there are four lifestyle strategies that can help decrease stress, while increasing coping.

1. Eat healthy foods, exercise, and get plenty of rest.
2. Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
3. Expression through a journal, art, music, or another form that helps evaluate emotions.
4. Deep breathing increases the oxygen supply and reduces stress.

Making a successful transition
Older adolescents are closer to adults than they are being children, this is both an exciting and scary time for parents. The adolescent is maturing, able to tolerate ambiguity, becoming more independent, and can form intimate relationships. However, this is also a time of increased responsibility, such as driving, beginning college, living away from their parents, and making personal choices regarding the use of drugs and alcohol. Before entering college and moving away from home, it is important to reassess your house rules to allow the older adolescent to make important decisions with the help of their caregivers. Parents are encouraged to discuss decisions with the older adolescent, support healthy choices, and recognize that they will continue to mature as the enter college, in addition so will your relationship with them.

College Today
The perception exists that college and alcohol are synonymous with one another, this perception is perpetuated from peers, the entertainment industry (i.e., movies like Animal House and Van Wilder), and sometimes even parents. Today the most frequently used substances are alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs (Adderall, Oxycontin, Ritalin, and Xanax).However, not all college students drink on a regular basis, at UW 18% of the students report abstaining from alcohol use.

Often parents may think that since they drank in college and everything turned out OK for them, that no harm can come to their child from experimenting with alcohol. However, when students drink (especially to excess) they are at risk for a variety of negative consequences for themselves of those around them. For example, 25% of college students report negative academic consequences due to drinking, such as missing class, doing poorly on exams or papers, falling behind, and receiving lower overall grades. Also, more than 70,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. In addition, approximately 1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. Moreover, 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by students who were drinking and 500,000 suffer unintentional injuries due to the influence of alcohol. Finally, 2.8 million students between the ages of 18 and 24 reported driving while under the influence of alcohol.


Although marijuana is thought to be less harmful than other drugs of abuse, more than 100,000 Americans a year seek treatment for marijuana dependence. If your college student attempts to reassure you that they are only smoking marijuana, you should assess how much they are smoking and how often. If there appears to be a problem or risk of a problem, they should be referred to a health care provider, for an assessment and possible treatment.

Prescription Drugs
Abuse and misuse of prescription drugs has increased over the years. If your college student does have a prescription make sure they are knowledgeable about the medication. For instance, interactions with alcohol or other drugs; dosage information; and missed doses. College students also need to be wary of friends who will want to buy, trade, or steal these medications, especially medications for AD/HD, pain, anxiety, and depression.
As a parent ensure that the college student knows that their medication status is private, help them generate creative excuses and polite ways to decline sharing medication, and make sure the campus health service is aware of the medication and the condition it is treating.

Enabling occurs when people prevent natural (often negative) consequences to occur to an individual who is engaging in high risk behavior, which actually allows the behavior to continue. People often do not intentionally enable. Parents of college students may be at particular risk to unknowingly enable their child.

Examples of enabling:
1. Denial of a problem (It's college, lots of kids drink to these levels).
2. Bailing the college student out of trouble.
3. Covering up for the college student
4. Make up excuses for the college student
5. Offsetting the consequences
6. Taking over responsibility
7. Encouraging high risk use

Conversation Strategies
A reason frequently stated for lack of conversation with the college student, is not knowing how to begin a conversation about alcohol or drugs. Here are some conversation starters:
1. Have you decided whether or not to drink, smoke, or experiment with drugs at UW?
2. How can I help you with your decision?
3. Let's discuss the pros, cons, and risks associated with your decision.

If your college student states they intend not to drink, it is still important to continue the dialogue.
1. What will you do if you're at a party and there is only alcohol to drink?
2. What will you say if someone asks why you are not drinking?
3. What if someone offers you drugs?
4. What if your friend is very drunk? How will you know when to take them to the hospital?

Once your college student is at UW it is important to continue to engage them in conversation. The best way to do so is to ASK!
1. Ask about classes.
2. Ask about involvement on campus.
3. Ask how they meet new people.
4. Ask what they do for fun.
5. Ask if college is different than they expected.
6. Ask what challenges they've faced and how they've coped.

Party Hosting
Although when your student is home, it may be tempting to allow them to have a party with alcohol at your home, in order to keep them safe in the privacy of your own home, rather than drinking at a bar, it is illegal for you to do this. You are at risk for criminal liability by the state which can lead to fines or imprisonment, as well as civil liability, where a private party can seek monetary damages resulting from injuries due to permitting underage drinking on the premises.

The information on this page is from multiple sources.
Phoenix House's Center on Addiction and the Family, and Prevention Strategies, LLC (2006)
David Cozzens 2008 parent orientation lecture
The University Health Center: A division of the University of Georgia's webpage:

Contact Us

UW Counseling Center

Monday - Friday

8:00 am - 5:00 pm

341 Knight Hall

1000 E. University Ave

Department 3708

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-2187

TeleType: 307-766-2187

Fax: 307-766-3412

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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