College in itself is very stressful. Add to it social stress, internship applications, living arrangements, not having mom’s cooking, lack of sleep…and you’ve got very stressed-out college kids. If you’re like me, all you want to do is run there and give them a big hug, but we can’t or at least, shouldn’t!
Even if you live in driving distance or the same town you shouldn’t run to their side. It is your responsibility to keep parenting. That means, no matter how much your heart is hurting and YOU need their hug, you must put their needs first.
Parent up, people! Instead of coddling, give them what they need to succeed. It doesn’t matter if they are first year or fourth year college kids, the stress is there and what they now need from you is behind-the-scenes support.
A bit about one of my college kids…
He is busy and he owns it. He is a double major with a minor as well. He is a college athlete practicing 5-6 days a week, plus going to meets. He is a research assistant to a professor he just happened to meet. His summer internship asked him to stay on if he could for the year and he wanted to. Plus, he has a great social life with a tremendous group of friends and a wonderful girlfriend who is just as busy.
So, believe me. I come with experience about what works and what doesn’t work to help them deal with it all. The biggest thing I found is that doing for them doesn’t work. Jumping on a plane and rushing to them is not the answer! But, there are ways to support them without adding more stress and here’s what I found …
5 Ways You Can Support Your Stressed-Out College Kids
THE GIFT OF LISTENING
This is the number one most important gift you can give your child. Don’t talk, just listen. Give them prompts to work through how they feel. Set them up to succeed in this conversation by suggesting they find a place to be alone to call or FaceTime. I prefer FaceTime simply because you can see their facial expressions.
Say things like, what’s on your schedule for tomorrow? Tell me about your classes? How is the weather there? Do not use negative statements like, is the food awful? Or, are your roommates making you nuts?
A lot the time, if you simply let them do what we call, brain drop, they feel better. It is like they just said it all.
MAKING SUGGESTIONS (after doing your research)
This is a time in your child’s life you should be giving them independence to grow. They need to be using the resources around them, whether it’s their friends, teammates, or college resources.
The most important thing you should do is encourage your college kid to get to know their advisor. Make sure they are comfortable stopping by for whatever they need. I know my son’s advisors name and you should know your kids’, too. Certainly not to contact them, but so your child feels you have a true interest in who they have as an advisor.
If you feel your child needs more support than their advisor, look on the college website and determine some links to send them to. If you feel the issue is time management, see if there is a time management event happening on campus.
Explain to your child that the counselors on campus are there to help them with this transition. Send them the link to the counseling center with the events they have going on.
Suggest that your child ask a professor or college staff member to coffee to talk about their classes. My son did this and ended up with a very strong relationship with an adult on campus.
If your child is having roommate issues or not being able to find their crowd issues, look on the website for event happenings that your child may like. Suggest they attend an event to meet new people.
There are so many resources for your child on campus, they often just may need help finding them. I am constantly sending my kids links. I just know how busy they are and when I see something cool on the college Facebook page, I pass it along, like voter registration.
HELPING THEM STAY FUELED
Food is a huge issue on campus. Being properly fueled and getting enough sleep are most important.
As a mom who home bakes everything and keeps a real food, clean food, and organic house, I worry that I set the kids up to fail, because finding similar foods in the dining hall is a challenge.
Talk to your college kid about what the options are. Make suggestions as to better choices. Eating off campus is not the solution. They can make it work; just work with them or suggest they meet with one of the campus nutritionists.
Of course, I also send my college kids food care packages. Not junk food, but real food like beef jerky, quoina bowls, and other healthy proteins. Your heart may want to send them sugar-filled candy and carbs, but resist the temptation! It is the worse thing possible. Home baked goodies are great, though.
A CARD AND A GIFT
Each month, I stop by the card store and pick up a little card that has meaning. Whether funny, encouraging, or just super cool, I get it based on what I hear them saying. I write a couple of simple sentences and done. I often include a gift card for Starbucks or another place they like and send it off.
DOING A LITTLE SOMETHING SPECIAL
When you are listening to them, you may hear something that they need or can’t get. Now, I’m not talking about doing things for them, but doing a little something for them. There is a huge difference. I heard while my son was talking that he was having issues registering to vote early. I know darn well he could have looked on line harder, but I said, let me see what I can find out.
I went onto his university’s Facebook page and found they were having a day to help anyone and everyone register. I simple sent him the link. I did not fill out forms or do anything for him, but my little thing was providing the information. I received a text, “Thanks mom. All registered. Much easier than the on line version”.
My other favorite thing to do is pack up a care package. Sometimes it is just a small padded envelope, but it is a little distraction to make them stop thinking. A recent care package had silly puddy, a little sponge that grew into a tiger, and a rock from my recent trip. Not much; just to say hey, I’m thinking of you.
But, sometimes you just have to visit…
So friends, parent up, and raise your young adults by not doing everything for them, just give them a little prodding in the right direction. Always remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them.