It's definitely in the air. Labor day is quickly approaching and my neighborhood is becoming active with signs of students moving back to school. Late summer & early fall often bring a sense of newness, fresh starts, and excitement. For many this is the beginning of a new phase in life, as a parent and a young adult.
Yet, with all the excitement, there will be students that feel like they are in over their head. The optimism that had carried them to this point can easily shift to being overwhelmed by a greater sense of separation, increased expectations, developing new relationships, keeping up academically & socially, redefining identity, plenty of opportunities to drink & get high, and family much less present on a day-to-day basis. This is a lot of change for anyone, especially someone who may be more sensitive and vulnerable with adapting to new environments.
A common question, for families, is whether their son/daughter can keep up with all the changes. I would say that although it is often unpredictable how one will do in college, being aware of the signs of serious struggle may be key on how things turn out. Here are a few thoughts from my personal and professional experience with setting up conditions to best support yourself or a family member:
1) Have an understanding in regard to a balance with frequency in communication - facetime, phone/text, in-person visits.
2) If you're sensing there is struggle, let them know you want to help and you're in this together - being mindful of not overreacting, arguing, or being judgmental.
3) Being alone in the experience (as a parent or student) may enhance the issues - explore supports on campus or outside help.
4) Set-backs are common and how families thoughtfully anticipate and respond can have a major influence on the outcome.
5) Recognize the things that are going well (that could be overlooked), while providing a message of hope.