Spring break just came to an end, and we know for many families that means school is back in session. For lots of parents, particularly those of us with college students, this past break was a great time for checking in on our young adults; making sure they were making wise decisions, staying healthy and being the responsible people we’ve raised them to be.
Regardless whether this is the first year of college for your young adult, or they’re finishing up their final year, it is imperative that you remain aware of the possibility of increased drug and alcohol use while on campus. More parties and less supervision means several opportunities to explore and experiment with many things, including drugs and alcohol. It’s important that, as parents, we know some of the signs that our child(ren) might be headed for trouble. Here we cover 5 of them, but you know your child better than anyone. Go with your instinct and don’t be afraid to talk to them or contact a professional for help if you think there might be a problem.
Signs Your College Student Might Be Using Drugs or Drinking Too Much
1. Sudden Drop in Grades
We all know to expect some fluctuation in grades, especially in college, but if you notice a steady or sharp decline, it’s time to take notice of possible reasons. While they might just be having a difficult time in school, a significant drop in grades is a hallmark indicator that there might be a problem, including one with drugs or alcohol, that needs to be addressed.
2. Unreachable on Weekends
Ok, so maybe your kid doesn’t call you every day… or every week for that matter. While many of us have had to adjust and come to terms with the fact that we’re not number one on our kid’s call list, we should be able to reach them regularly. If they don’t answer right away, we should be able to expect a return call within a reasonable amount of time. If radio silence becomes the norm on weekends, it might be a good idea to start asking questions to find out what they’re up to. While we want to give them space and be understanding that they’re busy studying, living and making new friends, a trend of being completely unreachable for extended periods of time (especially on the weekends) could be cause for concern.
3. Social Media Posts Depicting Drug & Alcohol Use or Out of Control Behavior
Social media can provide great insight into what our kids are up to. We can see who our kids are hanging out with, where they’re hanging out, how often they’re hanging out and the list goes on. It’s perfectly reasonable to become a friend, follower or fan of your child on various social networks, no matter how old they are. If you start noticing posts depicting particularly risky behaviors, such as excessive partying, popping pills, driving while under the influence, passing out, etc., take them seriously. These behaviors, even in the absence of problematic drug and alcohol use, warrant attention. Ask questions, talk to your kid, get help if needed – these behaviors put their, and others’ well-being in jeopardy.
4. New Prescription Requests Through Family Doctor/Insurance
This time in your young adult’s life usually brings with it increased responsibility for their own well-being. At this point, it’s likely they will be the ones to call the doctor if they are sick, get to their own appointments, and take responsibility for getting their prescriptions filled and ensuring they get back to optimal health. While you may not need to play an integral part of all this, it is certainly acceptable to want to know when your child is sick. If you suddenly notice an increase in pharmacy copay charges, receive a letter from insurance or in some other way are made aware that your child is filling prescriptions that you weren’t aware of, it is time to ask questions. While due to medical privacy reasons, you won’t be able to ask the doctor about your child’s visits or prescriptions, you can certainly have this conversation with your child. Ask enough questions and continue to have the conversation until you are satisfied with the answers or determine there is a problem which needs addressing.
5. Blowing Through Monthly Allowance in the First Week or Two
It is likely that you and your child established a budget and allowance for expenses while your child is away at college. There might be times which your child asks for a little more money to get through the month, and it’s fine – as long as it can all be accounted for. But if your child starts running out of money regularly and without reason, it might be time to start asking questions. You have a right to know where your money is being spent, so don’t be afraid to inquire.
We all hope our children enjoy college life to the fullest and most of them will make it through these years of exploration without significant incident. But we never stop being parents and it is our job to monitor and guide them, even when they are young adults. Don’t be afraid to get involved in your child’s life – they need you and it’s in their best interest for you to do so.
If you suspect your child has a problem with drugs or alcohol, or even want to get an expert’s opinion, give us a call. We can help you navigate these challenging years.