You’ve spent hours helping them with their applications, reminded them to sign up for the SATs, and watched proudly as they received their high school diploma. You packed up your car with all their luggage, took them dorm shopping, and moved them on campus for their first year of college. A few months, weeks, or even days after you leave, you hear from them again – and things aren’t going so well.
Whether it be academic performance, mental health, homesickness, or a tough time making friends, many young adults face struggles and difficulties during their college years. If your child is struggling in college and needs help, it can be hard to figure out what to do for them while respecting their newfound freedom.
Listen and Be Mindful
If your child reaches out for help or if you suspect things aren’t right, be careful with your approach. The traditional stern, lecturing parent won’t help in this situation – your child has just moved out and is experiencing his or her first days as an independent adult. Approaching them like you would have when they were living at home can hurt the situation.
Instead, approach your son or daughter calmly and kindly. Be mindful, honest, and open. Make sure they feel safe so that they are comfortable telling you about the serious stuff. Knowing what is bothering your student at school will help you figure out ways you can help.
Make sure to practice active listening with your student. Don’t interrupt while they are telling you what’s wrong. Make sure you gather all the details before asking them how you can help.
Look at School Resources
Many colleges and universities offer on-campus resources to students who are struggling academically, emotionally, and physically. Once they tell you what is going on, ask if they’d like to research some on-campus resources together.
Ask your child if they would like help contacting or taking advantage of these resources. Do not reach out directly if your child doesn’t want you to – make sure that you pass the resources on to your child so that they can do it for themselves.
Examples of resources your child’s college or university might offer include:
- Mental health services
- Tutoring services
- Career counseling
- Student clubs and support groups
- Financial aid
- Alumni support networks
If your child is overwhelmed, stressed, or experiencing anxiety or depression, they might not be taking time for themselves. Many colleges have very competitive, breakneck environments. Balancing academics, part-time jobs, clubs, sports, and other obligations can easily overwhelm a new college student.
Encourage your student to take time to do things that make them happy. Ask them what activities they find relaxing or calming. If they find running to be therapeutic, encourage them to take morning runs. If they love diving into a good book, send them a monthly juicy read. Other activities that help with self-care include:
- Warm baths
- Visiting a therapist
- Exercising or playing sports
- Talking on the phone
- Eating regular, healthy meals
- Getting at least eight hours of sleep per night
College can be overwhelming, intimidating, and scary. To help your child struggling in college, listen with kindness, find tangible resources, and encourage self-care.