Parents Can Help Their College Freshman Adjust

August 30, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
The first year of college can be a frightening and stressful experience, but parents can do much more to help than they think, according to Kerry Marvin, director of the counseling center at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. and a psychology instructor for the past 20 years.

Marvin, a licensed clinical psychotherapist in Kansas and a licensed psychologist in Missouri, lists a number of ways parents can help their children make the first-year college experience a wonderful and rewarding time that can set the stage for the rest of their lives.

“Parents should recognize that moving away to college is a stressful activity that requires many adjustments during the first year, not just the first week,” said Marvin.

He said parents should expect changes in their sons and daughters and that would generally be for the better.

Marvin also mentioned that all roommates aren’t incredibly weird (or at least not as weird as described by students) and parents need to be aware that conflicts, even with roommates, typically have two sides.

“You should encourage your son or daughter to attempt to work out solutions with their roommate or their residence hall staff,” said Marvin.

Many students go through at least one bout of homesickness. Marvin recommended that if a new freshman calls and wants to come home, stall them for at least two weeks.

“It’s amazing how much can change in a two week period,” said Marvin with a smile.

He added that parents should encourage their children to be responsible. Before providing possible solutions, it is best to check to see what the student has done with whatever situation presented and elicit ideas from them.

Marvin said parents could encourage their children to become involved in campus activities. Participation helps them make friends and feel part of the campus community. He cautioned that too much extra-curricular activity is detrimental.

“Parents should encourage their new students to focus on academics in their first semester,” Marvin said. “Adapting to college-level academics requires making the jump to “academic light speed.” It isn’t easy. It’s far easier to ease up once they know what’s going on rather than digging themselves into a hole at mid-term and then frantically scrambling to recover.”

Marvin said that by the Christmas break, students who have settled in well would often begin to use the word “home” when they mean their college dorm or apartment. He noted that parents should allow their children to have two “homes.”

If problems develop, Marven recommends encouraging students to utilize the existing help services on campus.

“Call Student Services, the Counseling Center, the residence hall staff, the Academic Dean’s office, or Student Health Service,” he said. “Staff and faculty on college campuses today want to help your son or daughter adjust, and we’re all on the same side.”

Something Marvin has seen often over the years is the tendency of parents to discontinue the use of medications their children are taking for anxiety, depression, or attention deficit problems prior to entering college.

“Their first semester at college is not the time to begin altering dosage levels or discontinuing such medications,” he said. “Frequently when problems arise, they are old issues that re-surface because they have been aggravated by the stress.”

Finally, he said parents should remember that they would be making some adjustments, too.

“Although you may think you’ll enjoy the peace and quiet with the kids away at school,” said Marvin, “you just may discover that you miss them.”