supporting your college student
Realities are changing more rapidly than ever, and physical distance can make it even harder to keep a line of communication open.
WHAT THEY NEED
- Independence in navigating and making choices
- Space to develop as the person they are
- Grace in their growth – they’re human too
- Information, support, and reassurance
- At times, your advice (they may not ask for it)
ways to support them
Stay connected via phone, text, email (even snail mail) – even if they don’t answer, they value hearing from you.
Ask honest questions – they appreciate that you care.
Be open – they’ll trust coming to you for guidance and it lets them know you respect them as an adult.
Know campus resources – student services, wellness offices, health centers, campus policies, parent weekends, etc.
Educate yourself on common issues – alcohol and other drugs, sexual health, dating and relationships, time management, jobs and debt, partying and social groups, mental health, and homesickness.
Offer information from valid resources, and maybe even share your personal experiences to help them distinguish between healthy and risky decisions.
THE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS
- Listen, paying close attention to tone of voice and what they’re not saying
- Take time to collect your thoughts and respond
- Decide an outcome together and how to reach it
- Stick to the facts
- Use “I” statements
- Be persistent and patient
- Know each other’s limits
- Have a conversation while either person is under the influence or in crisis
- Argue, preach, or debate
- Give advice based on what worked for you
- Be personally offended
- Feel guilty
- Label them
Decide with your student when and how often you will communicate. Whatever your communication plan is, make sure that it works for both of you.
Checking for Signs of Struggle
Calling, texting or coming home significantly more or less than usual
Reluctant or opposed to returning to school
A major change in their mood or behavior
The sense that something is “off”
Drastic changes in the social circle or activities they enjoy
Declining school performance – skipped classes, incomplete assignments, slipping grades
Without explanation, asking for more money
Significant weight change (gain or loss)