Tough Conversations for Parents

As a parent, your goals align with our mission - to empower students to become independent, responsible, and thoughtful leaders. 

College students are emerging adults and learn through experience and living on their own. Being a first-year student in college is a big transition for parents, not just students. As parents figure out how to share expectations and support their students from a distance, we want to offer parents some advice and guidance that we’ve learned along the way. These tips are, of course, also helpful for all parents of college students, not just parents of first years. 

  1. Set expectations with your student that matches the values and community standards of Ursinus College. 
    • Underage drinking is not permitted in our country or on our campus and has consequences. Research shows that students who perceived their parents were more permissive about drinking during the students senior year of high school were significantly more likely to transition to weekly alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking, and experience consequences from drinking in college (Walls, Fairle, and Wood, 2009). We can assume parent’s expectations have similar impacts for other drugs including marijuana, prescription drugs, and narcotic drugs.
    • Understanding our policy and expectations is important so we invite you to read the code of student conduct along with your student so everyone is on the same page. All student behaviors that violate policy will be addressed through the community standards process with an educational approach. We are an educational institution and we want students to learn from their experiences. 
    • Sexual misconduct will not be tolerated. Students need to understand consent and how alcohol impacts and can negate consent. We will do a lot of educating on this, including a required online EverFi Wellness Course due before first-years move-in and a Consent Event required of all new students during August orientation.  Ask them about these activities and events. Consistency between our messages and yours will help your student understand and live out their values around healthy relationships and boundaries. 
  2. Be open to discussing real life situations with your student, often. Make it normal and common to check in on their overall wellness - including all 6 dimensions: physical, mental, social, spiritual, intellectual, and financial. 
    • Check out this newsletter on Tips for Tough Conversations called the Parent’s Guide: Conversations about Alcohol and other Drugs.  The newsletter includes specific tips and techniques for starting and continuing these conversations.
    • Spend more time listening than speaking. Share your knowledge but ask questions and then actively listen. 
  3. Educate yourself about wellness issues. If you take time to learn about one topic, please become familiar with warning signs of distress.
    • Distress can take many forms and can come from a variety of situations. All students will react differently to the challenges of college life. Please review the resources on our page detailing warning signs of distress.  Understand the warning signs yourself and help your student understand them too - for themselves and for their friends. There are many resources at Ursinus to help your student succeed and deal with the challenges they might face. Reach out with questions or to consult.  

Download this app created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) called Talk: They Hear You for parents about talking to their kids about alcohol and other drugs - and equips parents with the necessary skills, confidence, and knowledge to start and continue these conversations as their kids get older.