Understanding Your College Student
The journey from adolescence into adulthood via college or university can be marked with both excitement and disquietude. Academic challenges will be intertwined with social interactions and the experience of integrating with a new and possibly strange environment. This may be your child’s first experience in living away from home and sharing a bedroom and bathroom with others. Your child will be confronted with issues about money management, time management, sexuality, health care and conflict resolution. The college years are about emotional maturation and effective decision-making as much as academic success.
So where do parents fit into the transition? You may find that you will have your own set of challenges, learning to walk the fine line between maintaining your role and authority as a parent, offering guidance and wisdom, while allowing your child opportunities to make mistakes.
As your child begins to learn new skills for college success, you too can build skills to aid the adjustment.
- Adopt a new communication style. Instead of communicating to instruct or tell your child what to do, encourage conversation to strengthen your connections.
- Actively listen. The parent/child relationship may have prompted you to immediately respond to your child with lecturing or judgment. As you build this precious new relationship, allow your child to completely express concerns and joys, absent your value-laden response. Let your child know that they do not have to protect you from their problems. They will be more likely to turn to you for guidance when you convey unconditional acceptance through your active listening.
- Communicate on a regular basis. Email, text-messaging, and cell phones provide ample opportunity for families to connect. Initially, the freshman may use these avenues often to seek reassurance as your child navigates the new waters. Don’t be surprised, however, when they contact you less as they feel more confident. Recognize that your new college student will set the pace for communication, but encourage regular consistent contact, such as a weekly Sunday telephone call.
- Maintain strong family connections. Family rituals and traditions have grounded the child from infancy, and they are equally as important for the young adult. Encourage social interaction. Building a network of friends and acquaintances will facilitate the adjustment process as well as enhance the student’s co-curricular education.
- Promote the opportunity for problem-solving. Growth and maturation involves learning essential conflict resolution, decision making, and problem-solving skills. When your child faces obstacles, your first response is to come to his rescue by either offering solutions or making telephone calls to roommates, RAs or administrators. Initiating calls, contacts, or complaints robs your child the valuable opportunity to practice self-care.
- Be aware of signs of distress. You know your child better than anyone. If you notice symptoms of depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, sleep disorder, or anxiety, make yourself and your child aware of services offered to mitigate.
- Counseling Services, located in 310 Keeny Hall offers free and confidential assistance in study skill-building, career decision making, and personal/crisis counseling. Licensed professional counselors, interns, and a psychologist provide quality counseling and group activities to all enrolled Louisiana Tech students. Counselors encourage students to schedule their own appointments. However, the parent concerned about a child’s emotional well-being is invited to phone Counseling Services to gather information about the scope of services or consult with a counselor to determine the best course for intervention.
As your child begins this journey of college life, your nervousness and concern are normal. Letting go with confidence may not be easy, but finding a balance between fostering independence and providing a foundation for support can ease the transition for both you and your child. Offer encouragement, actively listen, learn university resources and sensitively suggest them when issues arise. Remain actively involved with your new college student while standing back a few steps and allowing important growth and development.