How to Support Your Student

Sending a child off to college is a time of transition for parents as well. On the one hand, it is a time for your young person to try out new identities and interests. They need the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. On the other hand, they still need your guidance and wisdom as parents. Balancing all of this can be difficult! So what is a parent to do?

First, it is important to listen. Remember that the goal of listening is not so much to give advice, as it is to strengthen your child’s connections with family as they begin negotiating the transition to adult life.

Model good communication skills. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions, such as about alcohol usage, personal habits, etc. This will let your child know that you know what they are facing, but also model for them the ability to be direct with others.

Talk about important issues without lecturing, dictating, judging or criticizing.

Encourage problem-solving skills. Don’t tell them what to do. Instead, ask them what they plan to do. Problem-solving is an important life skill that we only learn through practice, practice, practice!

Remember that very often, this is your child’s first experience of living independently. Every day he or she must make a decision about when to get up, what to eat, whether to go to class, etc. This is an important time to have conversations about decision-making and consequences; i.e., do your decisions have a positive outcome for you? You can contribute to your child’s success by encouraging him or her to develop a healthy framework for decision-making.

If you see signs of distress, please encourage your student to ask for help. Help is available through Academic Support Services, Residence Life, the Health Center and the Counseling Center.

And finally, remember to take care of yourself. Now is a good time for you to pursue new interests, form new friendships or develop those new skills that you have been putting off.

*Adapted from College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It (2004) by Richard Kadison and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, all rights reserved, published by Jossey-Bass; text courtesy of the Hood College Counseling Center.