Do you have concerns about sending your child off to college because of their drug use?
Would you send your at-risk teen off to college or would you keep them at home until you are confident that they are able to make healthy choices?
Last November, I happened to drive by my local high school and noticed that it was college night.
As many of you know, this is the night when college representatives come to the high schools to share what their college has to offer.
As a parent, this is an exciting time. You’ve put in 17-18 years of parenting. You’ve watched your child grow and flourish. Now it is time for that last stage of development before they become an adult and start their own life.
Teens look forward to this next chapter in their lives. They are full of excitement as well as anticipation and stress. They fill out college applications and wait to hear if they have been accepted to the college of their choice.
But before you send your child away to college, there is something that you may want to add to your college preparedness checklist and that is, “How well is your child doing with regards to their drug and/or alcohol use now in high school?”
Here are some questions that you might ask yourself.
- Has my child used alcohol? How much and how often?
- Has my child used marijuana? How much and how often?
- Has my child used other drugs, such as prescription drugs, nicotine, club drugs (Ecstasy, Methamphetamine, LSD), cocaine, inhalants, PCP, or even heroin?
- Have you received phone calls from your child’s high school because your child has been caught with alcohol or drugs?
- Has your child been in trouble with the police?
- How well is your child functioning on a day-to-day basis?
- Is your child reaching his potential in most areas?
- What is your gut telling you about your child’s readiness to be on their own and make healthy choices?
As a parent we cannot solve all of our child’s problems for them. Clearly going away to college can be a wonderful experience. It is an amazing time for young people to grow and thrive.
Our kids will make mistakes and we will not be there to help them out, and most of the time that is good thing. Making mistakes and learning from them can be a positive experience. They will develop into strong people because they will learn to be on their own and make decisions for themselves.
Unless, of course your child has a drug or alcohol problem quietly brewing under the surface.
My daughter was accepted to a college in Colorado and we were all excited and happy that she was attending the college of her choice. We felt this would give her a chance to meet new people and have the full college experience.
Little did we know that her crystal meth use had started in high school. Now that she was in college, she had the freedom to allow her substance abuse to bloom and grow. It become an out of control addiction. She was two states away and we were not there to notice the signs of her drug use.
Little did we know that sending her off to college was the catalyst to take her substance use to the next level – the disease of addiction.
Your child, like mine, may be doing all they can to hold their habit together in high school, because they are aware of the consequences if they don’t. They may have no specific plan in mind. They are just trying to get through each day, hiding their drug or alcohol use as best they can. Like most teens, they are looking forward to the day when they can be out from under your watch and have more freedom.
If you think your child is drinking 1-2 beers or that they occasionally take a puff or two of marijuana, double the intake and likely that is closer to the truth. With the new-found freedom of going away to college, your child’s bad habits can escalate into a full-blown addiction. Your and your child’s dream of a college and a bright future will be gone, and you may find that you are using your hard-earned college tuition money to fund your child’s recovery.
If you notice that your child’s drug or alcohol use is getting in the way of their goals and ambitions in high school, this might be a sign that you need to review sending your child away from home, where they will have more freedom to indulge in their habit. This may be the time, instead to address their problem.
Being at college away from home, your child will not have anyone to report to each evening. They will make their own decisions about their drug and alcohol use. There will be no one to answer to. As we know drinking and drugging goes on in every college in America. Maybe some more than others, but if your child wants drugs or alcohol, he will easily be able to find them.
Here is what you can do as a parent as you are getting ready to send your child to college:
- Communicate with your spouse, or if divorced your child’s other parent first so that you present a united front.
- Communicate with your child on a regular basis about the dangers of drug or alcohol use.
- Be proactive and do whatever it takes to know as much about your child’s habits as possible.
- Listen to your gut. If you sense your child has a drug or alcohol problem, get outside help so that you can get to the root of the problem.
- Let go of the pressure to conform to what other families are doing. We all want to say our child is doing well and going off to college in the fall, but if the time isn’t right for your child, come up with an alternative plan. You may want to postpone for a semester or a year and address the problem, until you feel confident that your child is ready to live on their own.
- Let go of your feelings of shame. Seek outside help now, rather than later. This may spare your child having their substance abuse problem turn into the disease of addiction.
Are you a parent with a college bound student? What are your concerns? What suggestions do you have for parents getting ready to send their children to college? Please share in comments.
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