Taking Care of Your Student
Your student may experience psychological changes BEFORE setting foot on campus such as an increase in anxiety and worry. These are often due to relationship changes like saying goodbyes to life-long friends, increased self-doubts or doubts about college and concerns about leaving home. What you can do:
- Provide support by asking gentle questions ("How do you think its going to be being away from your friends?")
- Be understanding with the time your student wants with friends
- Take advantage of spontaneous ways the family can spend time together
- Encourage confidence: remind them of other times they have successfully coped with new places/new friends
- Be there for them by increasing your time at home with them as the drop off date draws nearer.
- Before your student goes to college, plan to discuss how to deal with the following: time management, finances, eating habits, laundry, safety, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.
- Divorced Parents: If applicable, discuss ahead of time how payment for college will be handled. This can avoid putting extra pressure on your student.
- Let your first-day college student be in charge of moving-in. Recognize this is an important step for them in attempting to maintain control on a day in which they may be full of uncertainty.
- Make their first birthday (or holiday) away from home a great one.
Develop a New Relationship with Your Student
For commuter students, helping your student to reorganize the bedroom can signal a move into a new phase of life.
Include the mundane. It gives the student a touch of home.
- Be pleasant and flexible.
- Talk in springtime about the summer/holidays-what you're expecting when your student comes home-hours, jobs, car, money.
- Set a date for a team effort to clean up your student's room at home and reminisce.
- Buy clear plastic containers to store their things in - so it doesn't look discarded, only saved.
- Know your limits and what battles are truly worth it. (Most aren't)
- Be available without hovering.
- Let them make their own mistakes and achievements. No "I told you so's."
- Listen. Don't give unsolicited advice (as one student put it: "if I wanted advice, I'd read Dear Abby.").
- Don't cross-examine, lecture, or ask questions you don't really want the answers to. Instead, listen well and talk about yourself.
- Laugh often; say, "I love you" often; trust that you have done your job and done it well.
- Recognize that your other children are also affected by this transition. Take them with you (if possible) to help with moving in their brother/sister.
- Discuss their worries, anxieties, elation, and sadness that they may be experiencing from this new stage in the family life cycle.
Requests to transfer: if this comes within the first few months, be supportive and encourage them to hang in there for a little longer. Recognize that the transition to college is a challenging one and many students need time to make the adjustment. Extra support is needed now: call more, write more often, listen intently and empathize with them. Don't encourage a hasty decision. If, after a few months of attempting to transition and the student is still struggling, transfer comes easiest during a natural break, such as the end of the school year.
Wanting to dropout: financial debts, failing grades, difficulty in connecting socially...these are some of the reasons students consider leaving college. If your student is seriously discussing this, make a trip to the college as soon as possible to discuss this with the Vice President of Student Affairs.
If your student is experiencing emotional problems:
- Stay in touch on a consistent basis
- Ask how they are coping with stress and the changes
- Try to visit once during the first semester, or have someone you know look in on your student
- If you feel a problem is developing, ask generally how they are coping.
- Take any sign that your student is having emotional difficulties (e.g., chronically sad, stressed, or depressed) seriously.
- Contact the Counseling Center for assistance on how to respond, your student's resident advisor, or Office of Student Affairs.