College is often one of the first times that your kids may be away from home for a long while. The undergraduate years can be an exciting time of experimentation and incredible growth for them. At the same time, it’s natural to experience some difficulty when going through major life changes. So if your child is struggling, here are a few ways that you can help ease their transition into college.
Talk to Them
First and foremost, it’s important to figure out exactly what is going on. Some kids may struggle with academics, while others might be shy about making new friends. You might assume you understand their difficulties, as you watched them grow up through primary, middle, and high school. While it’s possible your child is dealing with similar difficulties as before, there may be entirely new issues afoot.
This is why it can be a good idea to reach out and ask them what’s going on. And before you jump to any conclusions or solutions, just listen. Are they feeling homesick? Are they having trouble balancing work and play? The closer and more deeply you listen to what’s really going on, the more you can truly help your child.
Address Mental Health Concerns
Now that you’ve had a serious conversation with your child, take some time to reflect on what they’ve said. In addition to discerning what aspects of life are troubling them, assess how serious their issues are. Does it seem like they’re struggling significantly with their mental health? Has your child had difficulties with mental health before?
Transitionary periods can be difficult for anyone. Especially so for those with mental health challenges. If your child has already been seeing a therapist or taking medication, it’s crucial to continue. Routine and familiarity are essential for combating depression.
Consider seeking help from an online doctor to continue ongoing mental health care. Online doctors have the same credentials as an in-person physician, but they can be reached from anywhere. And while they’re not an online therapist, they can provide medical advice and medication as need be. They’re also a great option to consider in conjunction with a therapist. If your child’s mental state is particularly grave, addressing it is the first course of action.
Encourage Them to Get Involved
College is one of the best times for young adults to discover new interests and make new friends. From classes, to sports, to clubs, to volunteering, there are myriad opportunities available. If your child is shy, or just hasn’t made many connections, encourage them to join one of these groups. There are also many alternative ways to participate, even in traditional activities.
Take a theater group for example. You don’t necessarily have to be an actor to participate. If your child doesn’t like to be the center of attention, they could join the tech crew instead. They’d be able to work behind the scenes doing lighting, sound, and prop work. At the same time, they’d be learning valuable organizational skills and how to be part of a team.
If the on-campus opportunities don’t speak to your child, have them consider volunteering off-campus. Volunteering is a great way to connect with the local community. Your child could also look for a part-time job and even pocket some extra money for the weekend.
Provide an Allowance
Speaking of cash flow, it’s no secret that life these days is expensive. This is especially true for college students, who might not have a steady and reliable source of income. If your lifestyle allows for it, consider giving your child a weekly or monthly allowance. Doing so can enable them to take advantage of spontaneous situations. Trips, dates, and even extracurricular activities can be too expensive otherwise.
Now, it’s true that they might not always use this allowance in the most responsible ways imaginable. But part of growing up is making decisions, good or bad, and learning from them. Keep in touch with them. Check-in to see how they’re using their allowance, and steer them in the right direction.
An allowance might enable them to try a new hobby. Maybe they’ll meet their next significant other. You never know what doors it might open. If you feel like your child is hesitant to explore the world, give them financial freedom to do so.
Make Personal Visits
When moving away for the first time, one of the biggest differences in your child’s life is your presence. This might be liberating for some kids, but for some, the distance is the hardest part. If you don’t live too far away and time allows, visit your child. Even just a few hours of familiarity can give them a boost of confidence. Alternatively, consider the reverse: a trip back home. If your child is feeling particularly homesick, a weekend at home may be just what they need.
And whether you live close or far from their school, send your kid a care package now and then. Sending some love from home can be incredibly reassuring. You can include their favorite snacks, a new book or game, or a childhood toy. Anything that you think will help them feel more at home away from home.
College is ripe with potential for new experiences and transformational growth. But for some kids, going to college can feel intimidating and overwhelming. Helping them deal with depression, if they’re really struggling, can be life saving. But they may also just need guidance and encouragement. With whatever challenge they face, there is a way through, and you can help your child take a brave step forward.