The following content was provided by Dr. James Raper of the University Counseling Center. This is advice for parents and families – particularly of first-year students – about how you can be a safety net for your students and what is reasonable to expect as a parent.
- Think about being a consultant to your college student.
- Become knowledgeable about what resources and opportunities are available on campus
- Using this knowledge, help them think through a problem without giving them the “right answers”
- Let them struggle a bit, learning from their trips and falls, but be there to help them learn from their mistakes and apply those lessons in the future.
“What’s reasonable for me to expect as a parent?”
Expect a few nights of disrupted sleep from time to time. If this happens regularly, or the sleep is more than just disrupted (only a few hours per night consistently), have them talk to Student Health (758-5218) or the University Counseling Center (758-5273)
Expect anxiety about relationships with friends and peers. If the anxiety causes the student to avoid activities normal for them, or causes them significant emotional and/or physical distress, have them talk to the staff of the counseling center or student health.
Expect your student to have feelings of disappointment, stress, worry, frustration about academics. Many are used to working hard in high school and doing well. The increased rigor and expectation frequently takes some time to adjust to. If their ability to concentrate, prepare for papers/exams, or attend class is compromised by these feelings, have them talk with staff at the Counseling Center or the Learning Assistance Center.
Expect the student’s relationship with food, and possibly their body image, to change some during college. Don’t talk about any weight gain with your student.
- College is a great time for students to learn to make the right choices for them about food and overall health (this also includes choices about alcohol use). Pressure from peers (or their perception of peers’ expectations) and family about food choices and body size/shape can increase feelings of anxiety and shame, and negatively impact the types of choices the student makes about food and exercise.
- Focus on listening if your student chooses to talk with you about these issues. Use the consultant approach to help them find the resources on campus that can help them with any of their concerns: Campus Nutritionist, University Counseling Center, Student Health Service.
- If you notice significant weight loss, preoccupation with food and weight, overfocus on exercise and calories, purging behaviors (laxative use, vomiting, overexercise), restriction of food intake, please consult with the University Counseling Center or the Student Health Service.
Take the opportunity to discuss difficult topics prior to college (alcohol, drugs, sex, relationships, future careers, etc.)
College provides many wonderful opportunities for students to learn more independence and to learn how to manage their time, money, relationships with others, find motivation, and take care of their health.