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Supporting a College Student

Be Supportive

This may seem obvious, but it is an important part of helping your child through the college experience. Your support – academically, morally, and financially – will go a long way towards preparing them for the real world, while still letting them know you are there to help. This is the time of life where they start to take care of themselves to a certain extent, but they may still feel overwhelmed at times. Your support can help them endure rough patches and prepare them for future obstacles.

Visiting Your Child

Many parents are anxious to plan their first visit before their child has even left the nest. Whether your child lives on or off campus, the impulse to constantly check on them is overwhelming for some parents. Particularly if your child is still living close by, it may seem especially reasonable to drop-in whenever you see fit or visit your child, unannounced, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of their new life. Only you know your child, but in general, you should plan your visits with respect to your child’s privacy, the privacy of their peers and roommates, and their surroundings.

Be an educated parent

At many schools, drinking and partying are part of the fabric of the fundamental college experience. In fact, four out of five college students drink alcohol, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Even students who do not drink themselves can be affected by the negative consequences of binge-drinking, through car accidents, sexual assault, and other unintentional injuries. Your child may have to face questionable decisions in precarious situations. Being an educated parent means understanding the potential hazards of the college environment and communicating with your child about these risks, and the value of healthy choices.

Another potential hazard to college students is mental illness. Due in part to the stress of the new academic and social setting, many students show symptoms of mental illness that may be overlooked or misunderstood due to the circumstances. According to the American Psychological Association , 41.6% of students suffer from anxiety and over 35% have some form of depression. These conditions should be taken seriously, as they can be life-threatening if not treated, and may require behavioral modification therapy or medication. If you believe your child is demonstrating symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, or serious mental illness, let them know you support them and encourage them to seek help immediately.

What to Expect

Sending your student off to college for the first time can be a very overwhelming experience. You and your student are likely to feel anxiety, fear, excitement, confusion, relief, loneliness, and pride. By knowing what to expect when your student comes to ILCC, we hope that you will be better prepared for the new and exciting challenges that will come your way. 

What can you expect from your student and college life? 

Although you've lived with your student for quite some time now, college is likely to offer new (and maybe unexpected) opportunities and challenges not only for your student, but also for your relationship. Scary to be sure, the demands of college are rigorous and impact many dimensions of the student’s life. This section is devoted to offering information about what your student may be experiencing, helping you understand the changing nature of your relationship with your student, and provide some suggestions in coping. 

In college, your student may experience: 

  • encouragement toward independence and an increase in freedom at school 
  • the full responsibility of their own education 
  • new demands on his/her time (both study time and personal time) 
  • differences in course scheduling (they may not be in class all day or everyday) 
  • the desire to try something new or radically different from previous interests 
  • significant differences in relationships with instructors 
  • the necessity to actively manage (and increase) study time to achieve the same grade 
  • new anxieties about their abilities or future plans 
  • less interaction with you and the school or instructors 
  • changes in classroom, testing, and grading procedures 
  • changes in instructor expectations 

How will this impact you as a parent?

These experiences are a normal and expected part of your student’s development. Because of these new experiences, the nature of your relationship with your student is likely to change. While each relationship is different, you might be aware of some of these changes: 

  • As the college encourages independence and views your student as an adult, ILCC will deal directly with your student. You can expect to be less directly involved with the school. 
  • As your student begins to become more independent, you might expect strong negative reaction to your suggestions. 
  • As your student faces new challenges or defeats, you might also expect a need for more verbal reassurance. 
  • In adjusting to the demands of college, you might expect differences in your student’s involvement at home and with family. 
  • As your student finds his/her own way, you may also experience an unusual mixture of emotions: fear, pride, frustration, abandonment, joy, etc. 

What can you as a parent do about it? 

Know that despite all the changes your relationship may experience, your student continues to need your love, respect, and support. The challenge will be in discovering new avenues and expressions for this love and respect: 

  • It is important to remember that it may take your student some time to adjust to the rigors of these new academic demands. Be patient with them and assist in problem-solving when they are ready. 
  • Encourage your student to discuss the decisions confronting them and the implications of each decision. 
  • Allow your student to make their own decisions and let him/her know that you will be supportive even if the results are not ideal. 
  • Try to take a “wait and see” attitude toward a new venture. 
  • Because of the significant demands of college work, support and encourage good study habits without being too directive. 
  • Help your student view this time of life as a discovery phase, which is normal and exciting. 
  • Give freedom to learn how to cope with the new environment. 
  • In the face of frustrations and failures, give encouragement and support to keep trying to do well. 
  • Encourage your student to be involved in a few meaningful leadership roles on campus. 
  • Encourage your student to network with a variety of people at the college
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