Consider how you might respond to the following student statements:
“My roommate comes home drunk every weekend and I can never get any sleep or studying done.”
Encourage your student to talk to his or her roommate—or neighbor or friend or whoever is causing the disruptions—and address the issue one-on-one. Your student should be very direct and emphasize that it is the behavior and how it is affecting him or her that is the problem, not the offending student.
One way your student might broach the subject might be: “I really like having you as a roommate, but doing well in school is important to me, so can we make some rules about noise?” Or, let your son or daughter use you as an excuse: “My parents will kill me if I don’t do well this semester and I can’t get sleep when you’re noisy and drunk. Let’s talk about some ground rules.”
Confronting a roommate or a friend is not easy to do, however, and if needed your student should enlist friends or neighbors (or a resident assistant, if living on campus) for support and assistance.
All my friends are going downtown. I’ll be an outcast if I don’t join them.”
Research indicates that students are more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are with others than they would if they were alone. So this is a good opportunity to talk to your student about the meaning of true friendship.
Reinforce the idea that finding a peer group that shares the same interests can have a ripple effect, positively influencing many aspects of their college experience. Engaged students are successful students. In fact, the University encourages students to “Pick One” cocurricular organization or activity to get involved with during their first year. At Iowa, there are literally hundreds of student groups and members with all sorts of interests—from academic and political groups to student government and service organizations. Encourage them to seek out the right one(s) for them.
“My classmates are going on a bar crawl this weekend.”
Ask your student if he or she knows what a bar crawl is—going to multiple bars in a single outing and drinking alcohol in each one. They may not realize how bar crawls promote extreme drinking behavior.
Ask them who they are going with, and what the consequences are. How will they get home? What happens if they get separated from their friends, or if one of them suffers a blackout? Encourage them to at least set some ground rules and devise a plan for the evening.
If your student is under the legal drinking age, he or she also needs to consider the ramifications of getting caught—from a potential arrest or citation and the resulting fines or probation, to a record that may affect job or graduate school prospects.
This would be a good time to suggest alternatives: why not go to the Field House and play volleyball, or catch a movie?
“Did you drink when you were underage?”
If you did drink, be honest—but do so judiciously. How the conversation goes really depends on the kind of relationship you have with your student. Just keep in mind that you are not two friends sitting around a table sharing drinking stories.
Don’t be complacent. Take the attitude that this behavior isn’t okay. Say, perhaps, “We know you’re on your own now, but we still have expectations.” These expectations might involve class attendance or maintaining a certain grade-point average. The University also has articulated expectations for students in The IOWA Challenge, which encourages them to engage, stretch, excel, serve, and make choices of which they and the University can be proud.
If you know that your student is using alcohol, talk to them about how that behavior can affect grades and sleep patterns. College-aged students often think they are invincible, but remind them that drinking to excess can compromise their health. Do not minimize the potential problems.
Also, the best thing you can do now is be a good example.
For more information and ideas on how to talk to your student, visit http://studenthealth.uiowa.edu/health_iowa/substance_abuse/parents.shtml.