Set Them Up for Substance-Free Success

“Back to School” has taken on a whole different meaning in my house this year since my oldest will be heading to college.  The summer has been spent poring over lists of what to take, as well as what not to take.  In case you’re interested, a good mattress topper is considered essential, while a year’s worth of cleaning supplies will probably go untouched (eek!).  So I’ve tried to focus on the essentials.  I want him to have everything that he needs, and I want to have the peace of mind that he’s prepared for just about anything, without overdoing it.

In addition to checking things off the dorm list, I’ve been wracking my brain and asking myself if I’ve done enough to fully prepare my child for what lies ahead.  College is a time of enormous independence and exploration.  And it’s hard not to worry about the role that alcohol and other drugs play on college campuses.  However, there’s nothing on the college supply checklist that deals with that.  I can’t run to Target or Bed Bath and Beyond for that solution.  But my teen and I have talked about it.  A lot.

Our conversations about alcohol and other drugs started at an early age. In elementary school, some of the information seemed to go over his head, or he just listened and didn’t seem all that interested or concerned.  As he got older, some of those conversations were peppered with lots of questions on his part.  Most recently, our talks have consisted of me talking and him doing a lot of eye rolling or responding with “I know, Mom”, and a quick change of the subject.

It’s natural for me to wonder if all of our talks have made a difference.  Research tells me they have and they will.  Strong family support, including positive communication and healthy expectations, can help reduce the likelihood of risky behaviors such as alcohol and other drug use. Is it a guarantee that our kids will make healthy decisions 100% of the time?  Absolutely not.  But will they think about some of those conversations when faced with decisions about alcohol and other drugs? Most likely, yes.

So if you’re like me and you’re checking off all of those boxes from the dorm list, don’t forget to include a few important (and possibly awkward) conversations. Even though it may not seem like it, they’re listening.

Need help starting a conversation?  Go to for help.


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