Sending a child off to college is difficult. As parents of students, when they struggle with addiction, there are myriad challenges. They may be worried about how they will cope, whether they can navigate recovery, and whether to keep them enrolled in school or bring them home so they can focus on recovery. Students who wrestle with drinking or doing drugs may find some tips helpful in supporting the student to be independent and remain in recovery.
Talking to Students
The worst thing family can do is isolate themselves from the reality of addiction. Talking to the student is key to finding out what they are dealing with. College students report more stress than in the past. They may deal with anxiety, lingering mental health issues, or lack of support now they are away at college. Talking to students about healthy ways to handle stress can be healthy. Untreated stress can lead to substance use. When a student suffers consequences of drug use, this is a good time to open up the conversation. Talk to them about what it means to be in recovery, and how to help them find resources. Once they are in recovery, the journey is not over. They will now require support for this next phase as they seek to remain in recovery and away from alcohol or drugs.
Education is important for families of college students in recovery. Drugs have different effects. People are impacted differently. Before people talk about the dangers of substance use, it is important to learn more about various drugs and how prevalent they are on campus. A student may say they are addicted to one substance, but they are still susceptible to addiction to other substances. Learn about the dangers and risks of these substances. Read ways to help someone who is struggling.
Keep Open Lines
Communication with a student about how they are doing is helpful. Open lines of communication about their recovery programs and mental health issues can help release stress for everyone. It might require parental involvement in family counseling so they feel supported. A college student should feel comfortable talking about their lives. A strong relationship is important. If they express concerns, listen and offer whatever guidance is necessary.
Be an Example
When children are little, parents are more involved in day-to-day activities. They may look to a parent for advice or support. Even though they are not young, they can offer help. College-aged kids may feel they are not being supported in the way they receive it. If a son or daughter talks about struggles in recovery, it helps to lead by example. Detail any struggles that may have occurred in college or otherwise and be willing to share those stories with them so they understand what it is like and don’t feel isolated.
Find Additional Support
Finally, attending college does not mean a student is not at risk of encountering other people doing drugs or drinking. They are more likely to experience it after recovery and feel triggered. They may need additional help. Most students dealing with mental health or substance use disorders do not seek assistance. Their addiction and mental health problems get worse. A substance use disorder or mental illness can increase the risk of long-term health problems. Checking in with a student to see what they need help with is important to their well-being and parents’ as well.
If an adult child in college is struggling with mental health and substance use disorder, seek professional help. Recovery programs often focus on relapse prevention strategies. Help them connect back to recovery groups and people who support their journey. Just because they have an addiction and are in recovery does not mean they cannot thrive at school. They may need to lower their course load, take fewer credits, or find their way to more recovery community groups to stay clean. The most important thing is they feel heard and listened to while they are struggling. The more a student feels supported, the more likely they are to move forward in recovery and stay healthy.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental illness, now is the time to reach out for help. Burning Tree West provides students with space to recover from addiction while staying in school. Our focus is first on sobriety and staying clean. Then, we help students and families decide how to help them finish school and stay in recovery. Our focus on healing the whole student from the inside out. For more information, call us now at 855-997-1376