Talking with your student

What Can Parents or Loved Ones Do?

For some families, talking about alcohol and drugs with their student may seem unnecessary and for others, it may already be openly discussed. Either way, having a conversation and providing accurate information is one more way to help students be successful while at Grand Valley State University. Our goal is to assist students in making safe, smart, and responsible decisions related to drugs and alcohol. Please check out the information below to join us in helping students make informed decisions. 

What to do:

  • Communicate the facts and risks regarding alcohol and drug use
  • Set clear and realistic expectations regarding academics, finances, and substance use
  • Discuss a balance between social time and study time
  • Encourage students to find and get involved with activities on campus
  • Understand how enabling behaviors can increase the risk for concerning behavior
  • Be a good example/role model
  • Continue the dialog and carefully listen to your student
  • Discuss scenarios with your student that might help them develop skills prior to a situation for the best possible outcome. Possible scenarios to discuss:
    • Feeling pressured to drink or use drugs
    • Desires to experiment or try a substance for the first time
    • Navigating parties
    • How to address concerns about a friend or roommate

Conversation Starters

  • Have you decided whether or not you'll drink, smoke or use other drugs at GVSU?
  • How can I help you with that decision?
  • Have you thought about the pros, cons, and consequences associated with your decisions?
  • Do you know the laws and GVSU's policies? 

Advice to parents – Drugs & College 101

Advice to parents – Drugs & College 101

"Breathe, Nolan, Breathe"

At West Virginia University, a student named Nolan Burch lost his life to an alcohol overdose. This documentary, produced by Nolan Burch’s parents, explores the immense impacts alcohol can have on your health, future, and community.

Breathe Nolan Breathe

Considerations for Parents:

  • If you watch this video with your student, discuss the impacts of Nolan Burch’s death and ways it could have been prevented.
  • Culture has a significant impact on how people use substances. This means that your student can be influenced by the substance use habits of communities and people they interact with.
  • Discuss with your student if there are any environments they exist in that promote unsafe use, and how they may challenge or leave these unsafe habits.
  • Not every student uses substances, but many do. It is best to assume your student is using and talk with them about how to be safe with their use, rather than telling them they should not do so at all.

Encouragement can help:

Encourage your student to get involved in activities that don’t focus on alcohol or drugs. Help them with understanding the law and university policies. Recognize the power of your influence. Remember to keep ongoing communication with your student to stay up to date on how they are doing. For additional resources, visit

Please contact our office at (616) 331-2537 with further questions or concerns.

Page last modified April 17, 2023