Support Your Students: For Families
We provide support and expertise to parents and family members affected by a student experiencing a crisis or mental health challenges.
If you need an emergency consultation, call at any time and a counselor will assist you.
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As students begin college, parents and families often experience a mixture of feelings that are not unlike the ones their students are having. It is a combination of excitement and anticipation tinged with anxiety. There is also a sense that the relationship between adult and child is changing and that things will never be quite the same again.
When students embark on the college experience, parents and families are often fearful that they will no longer be able to influence them. In the process, losing sight of the fact that this time can also provide an opportunity to forge a stronger relationship that can include pride and satisfaction for everyone.
Allow the Relationship to Grow
- Recognize that college students have considerable autonomy while living on campus
- Avoid power struggles by listening to their point of view in an open, respectful way so that differences of opinion can be expressed.
- State clearly, when the occasion warrants, what you are willing to be flexible about and what you feel too strongly about to change.
- Trying not to fall back into old roles. For example, asking to speak with your student’s teacher is what parents and families do in high school, but not in college.
Stay in Touch
- Make a routine of being in contact through whatever form of messaging you and your student prefer. It is a great idea to ask them about the contact they would like from you (e.g., how often and what kind), and you can express your wishes or expectations about contact you would like from them.
- Plan a visit to campus. This can help you feel more connected to your student's world.
Accept that there are times when they are going to have to learn the hard way. These occasions often provide self-taught lessons that they will appreciate and value the most.
Although your own experiences may enable you to foresee some of the consequences of these decisions, you will aid your student’s growth when you resist "teaching them about life" and giving them the "I told you so" treatment if things don't work out. These messages also can shut down lines of communication and serve to reinforce the idea that your student cannot handle it, when obviously what you want to support is their growing confidence in their good decision making.
Discuss expectations before your student leaves for school. This will set your relationship up for greater success. Expectations may pertain to relatively straight forward matters such as how many visits home they will be making to more complicated ones like how finances are to be managed.
Hopefully you have had conversations about these topics before as your student has been growing and becoming more independent, but it is never too late to communicate!
- Avoid the temptation to "rescue" them even though they may call you sounding quite upset. Instead of providing answers to dilemmas all at once, ask what options your student is considering for dealing with the problem.
- Consider ahead of time, some of the likely situations your student may encounter so that you won't overreact if they occur. These might include difficulty in getting along with a roommate, home sickness, and temporary loss of self-confidence. Your ability to stay calm can be invaluable in helping them to keep things in perspective.
- Recognize that college is a time when your student will be exposed to different viewpoints about political, social, and religious issues that will affect the way they see life.
Get Extra Help
It is important to recognize that even though your student may be away from home, they will still need the love, approval and security that a good relationship with parents and families provides. However, sometimes there are problems that you cannot help with because of your distance from the situation or not knowing what to suggest. If you should become concerned that your student is having more difficulty than you are comfortable with, urge them to review the resources assembled here or to reach out to our team.