6 Ways to Handle When Your Child is Unhappy at College

You child went off to college and you hope that they would be having the time of their life. But you worry. You know the adjustment can be hard. It is their first time away from home, with all new faces and no old friends accompanying them. A September 2016, Relationup survey showed that for 89% of parents, their number one concern was about their child’s emotional adjustment to school. Are they happy? Are they making friends?

For some parents, the transition of their child leaving for college is easy. They miss their child a lot, but are comforted by the stories of new friends, parties, activities and stimulating classes. For others, there is concern and worry. They have heard from their child that they are not happy, missing home, missing their friends and not enjoying college. Some even express the desire to leave.

For the parents, it is very difficult to cope with their worries and they are often feel alone. A spouse may be available for support, but often you can escalate each other’s concerns. It is also hard to talk to your friends whose kids love their school, their roommates, already have a good group of friends and are excited for the year. Parents in this predicament need support and Relationup wants to help you get through the first few months of your child’s new journey.

Here are 6 coping skills to help you navigate your reaction to your child’s adjustment.

  1. This feeling is called helplessness. Most likely, you don’t like the feeling of not being able to do anything to make things better. You are now in the new position of sitting on the sidelines,watching things unfold. Embrace the uncertainty and manage the discomfort that comes with it.
  2. Find ways to calm yourself. You need to develop a series of coping tools that help you stay centered and grounded. Whether you exercise, meditate, journal or distract yourself with activities, you have to find several healthy coping skills that reduce your anxiety and worry.
  3. Don’t take your worry to your child. - You unconsciously might try and calm your nerves by checking in with them - a lot. You are looking for signs to reassure yourself that everything is going to be okay. But they can sense your anxiety by your questions and the tone of your voice, and it only increases theirs. Take your worries to your support system who can help calm you and stop you from spilling your anxiety over on your child.
  4. Offer support, not indulgence. Yes, offer support, but don’t join them and ruminate about their problems in every conversation. Spending time going over and over their problems or how badly they feel is not helping them. Nor is it helpful to be their cheerleader and take on the job of trying to make them feel better. It is their job to work this out. Instead, spend time helping them to make an action plan that addresses their concerns and may fix the problem.
  5. Investigate the support services available at the school. Most schools have a student counseling center, a peer support group and even a dorm supervisor. Have this information on hand and encourage your child to reach out for help. Be careful not to push too hard
  6. If need be, suggest an outside therapist. The National Association of Social Workers and the America Association for Marriage and Family Therapy have lists of licensed therapists in each State that can help you find a counselor in your close proximity to the school.

Adjusting to the first year of college, or any year for that matter, is a difficult one for both students and parents.  Every year brings new situations and challenges. Although most students figure it out on their own and make a positive adjustment, there are some that have a harder time. It is important to realize that how you, as parents, handle the situation can sometimes play a role in how this ends up.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS