While students are the primary audience for our services and resources, parents and families play a critical role in the knowledge, behavior, and skills that students bring with them to campus. 

Parents and caregivers continue to play a critical role in the health and wellness of their students while they are enrolled in their program and we welcome questions and concerns that you may have.

We’ve compiled the resources below for parents, families, and caregivers who want to know more about wellness topics relevant to their students.


For more information please contact Madeline Hope-Lyng, Director of Health and Wellness Education at mhope@middlebury.edu, (802) 443-5389.

Social Life at Middlebury

Social norms are group-held beliefs around behavior and expectations. We know that  students frequently overestimate the quantity and frequency of substance use among peers and believe that peers’ attitudes are more permissive than they really are. Students also often believe that they are the only ones struggling to make friends, feeling challenged by coursework, or feeling unsure about who they are.

Carriers of misperceptions are not limited to students; alumni, faculty staff, community members, and families can also contribute to a “reign of error” and a normative environment supportive of behaviors or ideas that don’t promote health and help-seeking. Families often underestimate the critical role that they can play in the lives of their students once they leave home. Research tells us that students do care what their families think about substance use, academic performance, relationships, and career aspirations. Students under 21 are more likely to make decisions based on their perception of their families’ level of approval of substance use while of-age students look to the behaviors they have observed in their families and cultures of origin to guide their own.

Important Middlebury Social Norms

  • 40% of Middlebury students meet the criteria for Thriving. The remaining 60% report they they are managing developmentally appropriate challenges including relationships with peers, self-esteem, purpose, and optimism.
  • 77% of Middlebury students agree that if they need to seek professional help for mental or emotional health, they know where to go on campus.
  • 48% of Middlebury students reported feeling a component of loneliness sometimes including lacking companionship or feeling left out. Forming new and growing relationships is hard and many students experience times of connection and disconnection during their undergraduate years. 
  • 53% of Middlebury students reported not using any substances in the last 30 days and in any given year between 25-33% of students report that they do not use substances at all.
  • 72% of Middlebury students agreed that our community actively works toward combatting racism within the campus community. Active engagement in combatting racism is one of the best predictors of belonging at the community level.
  • 68% of Middlebury students reported that they have received mental health services and support with 47% reporting active engagement in therapy.
  • 48% of Middlebury students reported that they turned to a family member for emotional or mental health support in the last year. The only relationship students report turning to more frequently than their families is friends (64%).

Middlebury College data from 2022 Healthy Minds Study

Tips for Talking with Your Student about Substance Use and Other Health Issues

Ask open-ended questions about substance use.

  • Be open to the responses. Ask follow-up questions if you aren’t sure what your student means by what they have shared.
  • Talk about why people use alcohol or other substances. Try asking: what are the hopes and regrets of use? What do you see people on campus doing? What do you think of that?

Be direct and set high expectations.

  • Remember that more means less: students who consume high rates of substances have lower associated GPAs. For those who choose to consume substances low or moderate use is associated with better academic, health, and post-graduation career-based outcomes.
  • Remember that parental/caregiver expectations do factor into young adults’ decision-making

Meet students in their room on campus.

  • If you are able to visit your student on campus, please do!
  • Knowing family will be visiting has positive effects on hallway environments. Your influence goes beyond your student. Taking the time to be in their residence hall is a positive influence for that entire community.
  • Talk about what you see and notice in the room, on the floor, and across campus. Asking your student questions about your observations can help then share with you their goals, values, and behavior choices. 

Take advantage of everyday events to talk about health issues.

  • When substance use comes up, consider sharing what you know about your family’s history.
  • When local violence is in the media, consider talking to your student about their safety plans, who they turn to for emotional support, and what they know are signs that they need to ask for help when they feel overwhelmed or affected by campus or home-town events. 

Encourage students to get involved with campus activities.

  • The more unstructured free time a student has, the more likely they are to engage in higher risk behavior.
  • Encourage Friday morning classes and Friday afternoon activities, volunteering, job shifts, etc.
  • Students who participate in student organizations, volunteer in town, or who have peer-to-peer engagement as a tutor, teaching assistant, or peer educator report higher levels of belonging, lower levels of stress, higher GPAs, and less substance use than their counterparts who are less engaged.

Be prepared and know the campus and community resources.

  • Keep a list of campus and community resources handy in the event that your student calls and is looking for support.
  • If you don’t know the answer or what resource to suggest, look online together. The conversation you have while problem-solving together can be even more effective than just telling your student who to call or where to go.
  • Normalize help seeking by sharing some social norms for Middlebury, an example of a time where you needed help and asked for it, or a time from the past when you saw your student leverage relationships and resources to achieve a goal or remedy a challenging situation. 

Supporting Mental Health

Sending your student to college brings with it many changes, some expected and some surprising. Preparing for these changes ahead of time can ensure your student has you as a resource as they begin and navigate this journey.

The Transition to College

Families are a huge part of a student’s support team even after they leave home. At Middlebury, we’re excited to have you as a partner. Here are a few tips for you and your student:

Make a communication plan.

  • How often will you talk?
  • Will you communicate via text, video chat, phone call?
  • How will you let each other know that you need to change your plan when the schedule doesn’t work?
  • Having a regular day, time, and agreed upon channel of communication can ground both students and families.

Support your student in seeking out campus resources on their own.

  • Be prepared to hear about challenges. It can be hard to hear about your student struggling, even when they are completely appropriate for college students. Often, students feel they can be most honest or share the hardest parts of college with families and they might leave out some of the easy or good things that are happening too.
  • Know our campus resources, but encourage your student to seek them out on their own. This can foster a sense of accomplishment and make it easier the next time they need help with something.
  • Parents and families can always contact campus resources to learn more, ensure that they have the correct outreach channels, and practice how to describe the resource or support to their student.

Contact campus staff for consultation or in the case of emergency.

  • Families are our partners. If you are concerned about your student’s immediate health or safety, call call Public Safety at (802)443-5911.
  • For non-urgent concerns of information requests consider contacting a campus office that provides support or services on the topic at the center of the concern or CARE Management at middcares@middlebury.edu or call/text (802) 443-3340. CARE Managers can help you understand which campus resources might be able to help.

Make sure your student knows that you believe mental health matters. 

Starting conversations about mental health can be hard at first or families may feel unsure about how being connected at a distance will go. 


Here are some resources to help start the conversation:

Navigating Transitions Webinar

Director of Health and Wellness Education Madeline Hope-Lyng provides tips for parents and families who are supporting their student in their transition to Middlebury.

Navigating Transitions with Health and Wellness Education

Online Resources

Conversations around health and wellness topics can be complicated, especially as parents and caregivers navigate distance from their students. There are many resources that can inform and support you.

The online resources below can offer support for starting and maintaining communication around important health and wellness issues with students. They are designed for, about, and with college students and their families. These, in addition to campus resources and staff, can be useful to review proactively and when your student may be facing a challenge or has a question.

  • Set to Go An online resource center to help parents and students focus on emotional health before, during and after the college transition.
  • College Drinking A resource created by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) for comprehensive research-based information on issues related to alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college students.
  • Go Ask Alice! at Columbia University A team of Columbia University health promotion specialists, health care providers, and other health professionals, along with a staff of information and research specialists and writers answer questions from college and high school students, parents, teachers, professionals, older adults, and others, on every conceivable health topic.
  • The Jed Foundation An organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students.
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence A resource on addiction and recovery with a specific page for parents.
  • National Eating Disorders Association A nonprofit organization advocating on behalf of and supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders.
  • Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays A national support, education and advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, their families, friends and allies.
  • Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network Anti-sexual violence organization which operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country.

Is there a resource you’ve used to support your student that we have not listed? Email healthandwellnessed@middlebury.edu to share for inclusion on this site.