The College Search: College Troubles
April 21, 2010 (WPVI) -- When your son or daughter enters college for the first time, you will be inundated by all sorts of material relating to everything from housing and campus maps, to clubs, activities and meal options.
Most parents leave the initial orientation for accepted students with a large plastic bag or two filled with reams of papers (and probably logo-embossed t-shirts, pens and Frisbees, too).
Among this literature, will be information on services available to help students maintain their mental health. It's quite possible that your son or daughter will never have need to make use of such services, but the fact that all colleges offer this sort of assistance should tell you something about college: it's stressful. Not only is your son or daughter about to become far more in charge of their own studies than ever before, as well as encountering the more fast-paced teaching styles of college professors, they may be living away from home for the first time. They will almost certainly encounter new and different personalities in their fellow students, some of whom can put them out of their comfort zone.
To a certain extent, these are good things. New challenges, new experiences, and a newfound level of independence, each play a vital role in the maturing process. Adversity often tests a young person's mettle and better prepares them for the future challenges of life. But this momentous change can also be off-putting and there may be times when your child feels a heightened sense of detachment or even loneliness.
Have the talk
Rather than simply handing them the phone number for the college mental health office (although it's probably not a bad idea to make sure they know the service is available, and how to use it), the subject of "Trouble at College" is an excellent one to cover ahead of time with your young student before they get on campus. Things will be different there, and now more than ever, it's time to reinforce the idea that just because they're away (or at home, but operating more independently), they still have an obligation to keep an open line of communication with you, as well as any siblings. Tell them, up front, that you plan on maintaining an active email or text relationship with them, and that in fact, you demand it. This does not mean that you will be contacting them every day, or even every week. In fact, included among all that college paperwork you'll receive will likely be a pamphlet with advice on "How to Let Go" and to allow your new student their rightful independence. But you should also expect to remain involved in their general goings-on, and to hear about their successes, failures, and experiences. All these things are still your business.
There are multiple reasons for this, but the most crucial involves problems that may crop up. You don't want to find out too late in the game, for example, that classes aren't going well, something that may be hard to gauge accurately since grades aren't posted that often. But more importantly, you want to have an open, fairly regular communication going, in the event of an emotional upset. While there are outlets and procedures for dealing with roommate troubles or academic difficulty, the best advice and comfort your student receives may well be what he or she gets from you.
Both of our college kids had issues with other students and it was helpful for them to use us as sounding boards in these cases. Both of our kids also faced the issue of fellow students who were hooked on drugs. There were suicides, and accidental overdoses. In one instance, the troubled student was on the perimeter of our child's immediate circle of friends, and the experience hit hard. Again, better to have the sort of relationship and open line of communication that encourages your children to reach out to you with their feelings about these sorts of events, so that they have some adult help in picking their way through the turbulence.
Most college experiences will likely be positive for your student. They certainly shouldn't go into the experience petrified of what they might find there. But it helps them and you, if they approach this challenging and exhilarating experience with a plan to share with family what they discover on campus.
MORE COLLEGE SEARCH ARTICLES: High School Course/Activities, ACT/SAT, How Many Colleges Should I Put On My List?, Compiling A List, Unsolicited Brochures, Campus Visits, Applying For Admission, Types of Applications, Application Essays , FAFSA, Submitting Applications, When Will I Hear If I'm In?, Wait List, When Must I Decide?, Myths About The Cost, NCAA Athletics, Athletic Scholarships, The College Search PrefaceRead more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.
parenting, david murphy
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