Health & Safety
5 Tips for Addressing College Student Struggles
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By Madison White, Uloop
Many parents struggle with talking to their children about important issues, but it’s often even harder for parents of college students. These parents have to balance and transition between playing the authoritarian and being a friend.
Of course, you want your student to be safe and make good decisions, but you also understand that they are nearly full adults now. Finding the right middle ground can be tricky when college campuses bring difficult problems like anxiety, depression, safety, and self-worth.
Still, talking to your student about these things and other mistakes that may pop up along the way doesn’t have to be impossible.
1. Keep an open mind
For many students, college is a time to experiment with who they are and who they want to become. This could be trying to be friends with different types of people, new clubs and societies, or less savory options like drugs and parties.
As a parent, college is a crucial time to start shifting your relationship with your student. As you begin to let go of your parental duties and mindset, stay open to what your kid truly wants. You will have less influence over them as the years go by and it’s okay. Along their journey through college, they might try some new things that seem completely out of character for them, or at least out of character for who you want them to be. Remember that they’re finding out who they are and that trying new things is essential to doing so.
2. Accept mistakes
As a parent, you may be quick to reprimand your student for mistakes as soon as you learn of them happening. Be careful, as mistakes are bound to happen during your student’s college life. In fact, making mistakes can be an essential part in forming a mature and determined adult.
If your student makes a mistake and comes to you for advice and support, provide those things. Do not reprimand them harshly or they will probably avoid telling you things about their life in the future. Many students who experience academic struggles at first are already very hard on themselves.
3. Don’t give too much advice
Even if your student comes to you for advice, this doesn’t mean you should be giving them an hour long speech on exactly what to do and what not to do. Sometimes they may not even really need your advice, but just someone to talk out the problem with.
If you have given them advice in one area, don’t assume that they want your opinion in all the other areas of their life too. It is easy to go overboard with the recommendations so keep them simple and tailored to the issue at hand. Remember, you want your student to start figuring things out for themselves too so if they are coming to you when every little thing goes wrong, it might be your cue to step back even more.
4. Recommend other people
Sometimes your student won’t really want to talk to you about these issues, no matter how supportive, gentle, and understanding you are. This is fine too and you should try not to take it personally. What you can do, however, is recommend other people that may be able to help them when you cannot.
You could suggest that they join a club that focuses on one of their interests. Perhaps they could look for therapy sessions or group sessions at the counseling center. They could join a university intermural sports team. By creating a network of people that they trust, you can rest easier knowing that there is someone they can lean on in times of need, even if it isn’t always you.
5. Keep looking forward
When something bad happens, it is very easy for students to believe that it is the end of their journey. Many students will stress because they think one bad test score will ruin their GPA and eliminate their dream of medical school. They may think that one bad fight with their roommate is the end of their friendship.
Of course, these imaginary scenarios are usually blown out of proportion. If your student is hung up on something, remind them that mistakes are all a part of the larger journey of college. They’re there to grow academically, socially, and emotionally, not to have a perfect life. By looking towards the future, it can help both of you find reasonable solutions to many problems.
Every relationship between parents and their children is different, yet many have the same concerns when it comes to parenting through college. Remember that not everything you try will work. Some students need their parent’s constant support and involvement in their life while others just need to hear from them every once in a while. Whatever the case, be proud that they’re taking such an important step in their life.
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