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Parents & Family

First Semester: Understanding the Dynamics

At 10 a.m. you receive a text from your student saying college is fantastic. Later that day, your student calls expressing feelings of frustration and anxiety. What's a parent to do? Whether it happens the first few weeks of classes or just prior to finals, most families will receive an emotion-laden phone call, text or email from their students. The student may be in tears or expressing a flurry of fears about one topic or many.

For families, this can be disheartening. College can mean freedom, excitement and new experiences. But, it also can be a time when social, academic, athletic, financial and other challenges affect a student's mental, physical and emotional well being.

Understanding Their Concerns

Many first-year students struggle with areas relating to academic pressure, time management and encounters with sex, drugs and drinking.

Students living in the residence halls may experience roommate conflicts, feelings of no privacy and family separation issues. Commuters may struggle with concerns relating to socialization and balancing college with home life.

Sometimes the frustration leads students to question their own abilities, their choice of academic direction, their sense of belonging, as well as their selection of a university.

Giving Them Time to Adjust

For most students, these doubts can be part of the pattern of adjustment that occurs during the first year, most often in the first semester. And while a student might believe that temporarily leaving college or transferring to another institution might ease frustrations, there are better ways to manage feelings of uncertainty.

As a parent, listening and talking to your student is important during the adjustment period. Likewise, a student should visit BW's Counseling Center, Academic Advising or Student Life office to gain assistance in addressing areas of concern.

At times, it may be tempting to contact BW on behalf of your student. But supporting your student can mean standing back and encouraging your student to initiate roommate discussion, talk with a professor and utilize campus resources. Being their own advocate gives students confidence, communication skills and other attributes beneficial in the workplace as well as in social settings.

Parent Pointers

Listen: It is easy to get emotionally involved when your student is upset. Sometimes all that is needed is to listen while your student expresses frustrations.

Trust: Though it may be hard at times, stepping back and respecting your student's decisions (even when you disagree) can help build a stronger parent-student relationship. If your student makes mistakes along the way, offer support and encourage resilience. After all, college is a time when students not only enrich their minds but also their experiences.

Bond: Every now and then, your student's motivation and self-esteem need a boost. Support your student emotionally, physically and mentally by encouraging self-care and offering pep talks.

Encourage: A range of campus resources are available to assist your student in the areas of academic, social and wellness concerns. If you feel your student needs guidance in resolving issues of transitioning to college life-including behaviors associated with alcohol or drug use, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions-encourage your student to contact the Counseling Center.