Parents and Families

Image of 3 students playing video games in their dorm room

This month we want to hear from you. Deep down, a lot of parents just want their kids to be happy and get good grades. So what can you do when they're unhappy? And how do you help them handle the normal college experience of occasional failures and academic self-doubt? What advice do you have for other parents who might be facing this challenge?

Share your thoughts here.

We’ll share your responses in a future newsletter for the benefit of other Michigan families!

Last time we asked – Do you talk to your student about the risks of alcohol on campus? Or about sexual assault prevention? What advice do you have for other parents who’d like to raise these issues, but maybe don't know how to start the conversation?

As a family member, you have considerable influence. Solid research shows that parents can and do influence drinking behavior in college students. 

Even once college students have left the nest and settled into dorm life, their drinking behaviors can be influenced by their parents. American Psychological Association

By talking with (and listening to!) your student, you can offer information, support, and guidance. Here are a few suggestions from Student Life for productive discussions throughout their time on campus:

  • Be specific about your expectations (abstain or drink moderately, make positive choices about sexuality and eating patterns, practice financial responsibility.) Your definition of moderate drinking may vary greatly from your student's.
  • Ask open-ended questions, and then be prepared for their answers. Listening in a non-judgmental manner will keep communication open, even if you’re worried about what you're hearing.

Conversation Starters

  • What are some decisions that you are facing right now?
  • What do you do with friends in your free time?
  • What kinds of activities are available besides parties with alcohol?
  • How do you cope when you feel stressed? What helped you cope before college that you could still rely on?
  • How will you deal with pressure to drink or drink too much?
  • How do you deal with someone who is pressuring you to increase physical intimacy?
  • How would you make sure that a partner gives consent for sexual activity?
  • How do you protect yourself emotionally and physically in a sexual relationship?
  • How do you talk about your sexual boundaries with a partner?

One former Michigan mom has a painful story she would like other parents to hear which we share below at her specific request. Julie Harris Buckner's son Josh Levine died last year shortly after his graduation from the university as a result of combining alcohol and the common prescription drug Adderall.  Determined to use this tragedy as a catalyst for positive change, she now speaks to audiences of students and parents to raise awareness about this dangerous and potentially fatal drug interaction. To read more about her son, his life, and their legacy, read their story here.


To help Student Life continue making a difference in students' lives, please consider making a gift.