Going to college is a big transition, no doubt about it. And even eager students who were excited to venture away from home to go to a college—sometimes states away—can find themselves feeling overwhelmed and stressed as the semester gets rolling.
With the sudden influx of responsibilities—anything from managing their own schedule to doing laundry—and the increased stresses of class, living in a new place, roommate drama, and a whole host of other things piling on top of each other, many students can have a breakdown or two.
So when that happens, what can you as a parent do to reassure your stressed-out student?
Ranting or just letting loose about what’s been bothering them can be a hugely relieving thing. So if they call and just want to talk out their problems, let them. Don’t bombard them with a bunch of questions or interrupt, just let them let it out. (I remember making a few tearful calls home myself when I was overwhelmed. It was always nice to just confess whatever had me worried to my parents. I always felt better at the end).
Some kids are eager to be out of the house and under their own power. Others are a little more hesitant. Either way, being there for your student is imperative. This doesn’t mean texting every hour on the hour to check up on them. But, calling every once in a while just to check in or say hi can make home feel a little closer. By calling, setting up Skype sessions, or even visiting, you reassure your student that you are there if they ever need you. The training wheels might be off, but it’s nice to know someone will be there to catch you if you fall.
Your role as a parent is both coach and cheerleader. You’ve guided your student their whole life up until this point, but there’s no real need to stop now. Sure, they get to make their own calls and police themselves, but they’ll still need some words of wisdom now and again. If your student is worried that they can’t handle something or do something or they don’t know how to get through a difficult time, reassure them that they can. College is hard! Everyone gets bogged down by the stresses sometimes, but they can push through and meet that challenge, whatever it may be. Offer advice, an encouraging word, and let them know that they can rely on you when things get tough.
This isn’t, however, to say that you should coddle your student. If they’re having problems with a certain class, you shouldn’t email the professor on their behalf to “fix things for them.” Students are learning to stand on their own two feet, so if they stumble you shouldn’t swoop in and pick them up, but rather catch them and nudge them back to their feet. It’s a challenging time to be sure, and a few stumbles can be good.
All in All
Listen, be present, and reassure. It’s a big step for you and your student, but it’s a big step forward in both of your journeys.
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