Little did I know that my year-long sojourn in the enchanting city of London, during my junior year in college, would be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Longing for this awaited adventure, I embarked on this journey with fervent excitement. However, the first two months brought forth a torrent of tears, as homesickness enveloped me each passing day. Bereft of a cell phone and constrained by the distance that separated me from my beloved San Diego, I had to uncover ways to navigate this poignant period. Reflecting on this personal voyage, I feel compelled to share valuable insights on what should I do to help my child’s transition to college. Through my narrative, I aim to empower parents with guidance, shedding light on strategies that can ease their child’s transition and pave the way for a transformative and fulfilling college experience.
I have worked with a lot of college students who were having trouble making the famous transition to college. No matter what the reason is, it’s always upsetting and makes parents mad! Your son has only been away from home for a few months, and if he takes a few steps, he can find his way in his new life.
From the heart
For the next steps to be most helpful, you should first try to figure out why your son is having trouble changing to college. You may have learned something about why he seems to be avoiding his new life from all these phone calls and trips home, but you may find out even more if you ask him directly. What exactly is he having trouble with? Some of the most common feelings are being alone, feeling like he doesn’t belong, feeling overwhelmed in school and lost in a routine where he has more control over his time, and feeling like he doesn’t fit in. All of this makes the safety and comfort of home even more appealing, but if he keeps going back to it instead of making his way through the change, it will be that much harder to get used to it.
Learning to Become Uncomfortable
Psychologists say that the ability to deal with worry is a key part of mental health. This means being able to feel upset and uncomfortable without trying to get rid of it. Unfortunately, our modern world is full of ways to escape (like Instagram, computer games, drugs, and alcohol). Problems with handling stress can lead to things like worry, depression, and drug use. If there’s one big thing I could say about the mental health of our children and teens, it’s that they don’t know how to deal with pain well. I think that at least some of this trend is caused by parents trying to help their children when they are upset. When our kids are upset, it makes us feel bad, or because we’ve gotten so good at being empathetic, we feel their pain too much. But this emotional saving doesn’t teach our kids how to handle stress well in real life.
Once you know more about your son’s problem, you can understand how he feels and encourage him to sit with his discomfort instead of running away from it. You can’t close off all of the world’s escape ways, but you can show your son that you trust and believe in his ability to handle his hard feelings and get to the other side. Think of other times in his life when he overcame problems and tell him about them. This will show him how strong and resilient he is. He also doesn’t have to do it alone or with only you to help him.
I’ve seen a wide range of quality regarding campus mental health services, but your son’s college counseling center is a good place to start because it specializes in adjustment problems. Many colleges have also made tools just for first-year students to help them stay and not drop out. You can tell your son these things, but he needs to reach out to set up assistance. Help him feel like he belongs by getting him involved in social activities like clubs based on his hobbies. Prepare him for the fact that there may be dead ends in his search for his people, but he won’t find them if he stops looking.
Limit Trips Home
This may seem tough, but when your college student doesn’t stay on campus on the weekends, they aren’t helping themselves get more settled. They miss out on one of college’s primary benefits: establishing new friends. I wonder if he is trying to avoid this for a reason, which you could look into. For example, if the only way he seems to be able to meet people is at Greek fraternity and sorority parties, he may have a good reason to feel nervous. Even in this case, it’s likely that there are other students like your son who don’t like these parties and are having fun in other ways in quieter parts of campus. To find these spots, he just needs to be on campus on the weekends.
Set a Timeline
As a first step, try making it longer between trips home. Then, set a date at least a few months from now when he and your family will talk more seriously about whether to look for another choice. Not every student will fit well in every college group. Even after taking the steps above to adjust, if he is still unhappy, he may need to think about transferring or changing his path. The details of his fight are important. A different school culture could make a big difference if he doesn’t feel like he’s part of a group. He might want to think about a less standard academic path if he feels too busy with school. But he might be able to wait longer if he knows he has a certain amount of time to think about his choices.
You may have noticed that most of these plans involve his work and some help from you. Part of helping him deal with this change is not doing it for him. In order to help him the most, you should do as little as possible. He needs to learn to trust himself to get through this big change in his life. Even though home and family are important for safety and comfort, it’s time for your son to figure out how to build a new sense of home away from home. He only needs to find the right place for him to live.