Are you ready to communicate with your student about an incident related to alcohol or other drugs, if needed?
Why communication matters: Studies show college students still regard their parents (or parent role models) as trusted advisors and vital in their social support network. Students often rely on parents when they encounter difficulties and challenges.
At U-M, parents are informed when a first-year student under age 21 has a serious or repeated alcohol or other drug (AOD) event. Parents receive an official email from the AOD Parent-Family Communication Program. The email contains information about the university‘s process after the incident, links to resources, and encouragement to support student’s overall well-being.
The purpose is to reduce students' AOD risk and harm and to increase social support as they transition into the U-M community. The program partners with parents and students to focus on productive communication and to empower students to move forward after an AOD incident.
Findings about parent-family communication include:
- 70% of students communicated with parents immediately after the event and over 20% communicated because the email was being sent.
- 16% of students initiated meetings with the AOD Parent-Family Communication Program. During meetings, students determined how they want to communicate with their parents, reviewed or revised the email, or learned more about the process, program, or other resources available to them.
- 39% of parents responded to the email, seeking resources for harm-reduction strategies, their student’s acclimation to campus or involvement in Greek life, and mental health issues such as depression, sleep, anxiety, and eating disorders.
What students and parents said about communication: Some students and parents were initially apprehensive to discuss AOD incidents, yet:
- Many reported overall open and improved family relationships
- Many reported having fruitful conversations focused on harm reduction, behavior change strategies, and moving forward
- Many parents appreciated U-M’s role in offering resources and supporting students
“I like the [email]. It’s not about getting into trouble; it’s about getting help.” -- U-M student
“I just wanted to say a quick thank-you for meeting with me today! It was great to talk to you further about finding support for me/my situation.” -- U-M student
“[My parents and I] concluded the conversation by discussing how I can avoid such situations in the future through changing my behavior.” -- U-M student
“I believe the program influenced [my student]’s decision to bring this to our attention first, allowing us to engage the issues at a more opportune time than might otherwise have occurred.” -- U-M parent
“The phone call from my [student] and the conversation I had with the wellness center were both instrumental in getting [my student] back on the right track.” -- U-M parent
About the program: The AOD Parent-Family Communication Program collaborates with University Housing and the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. It is intentionally located within Wolverine Wellness in University Health Service as a harm-reduction intervention that addresses the health and well-being of the whole student. The Model of Well-Being is integrated into conversations with parents and students. Other common talking points include emerging adult development, trends of use on campus, AOD educational programming, and exploring non-drinking events on campus. These resources are available to all U-M students and their families.
If you have questions about talking with your student about their AOD use, or want to learn more about the program or resources, please contact Janet Jansen, manager of the AOD Parent-Family Communication Program at 734-647-7542 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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