My Daughter Called Crying...
My daughter called home from college the other night crying and saying she hates it. I want to go pick her up and bring her home, but I also want her to stay and be successful. What should I do?
First, let me say that you, better than anyone else, know your child and their capabilities, adaptability, and ability to handle stress. If you suspect your child is truly in distress, contact their academic advisor, housing supervisor, or campus authorities immediately. Better safe than sorry.
Then let me tell you about what happens to most college students, - stress, discomfort, and even confusion about their new role in life and the associated responsibilities and freedoms… You should know that the call from your daughter was very predictable! Most college students, in their first semester or year of college, have a time that they just hate it. They may hate their roommate, maybe school work, a professor or their major, or maybe they hate everything, but they are likely to call you and tell you how bad things are. So don’t be surprised if/when that call comes. Don’t minimize it, but don’t be surprised either.
When it happens, the most important thing you can do is listen. Ask open-ended questions and listen to what they say. Don’t be judgmental – it could cause them to stop talking, and they need to talk now. There will be plenty of time to give your opinion about things later. Ask how they feel about things, what they are thinking, and try to see if they compare their own experience with that of others. It’s likely they feel like they are the only one having trouble (or hating things), or that no one they know is. The reality, of course, is that most new college students struggle to deal with being on their own for the first time. They might not feel like they fit in. They may be struggling to get a handle on school work. They may be faced with decisions about alcohol, smoking or even sex that they didn’t expect. They may just miss friends, family or a boyfriend/girlfriend.
In high school, your child likely knew where they fit in, they knew how to act, what to do, and where to go for their place in their ‘society’. They are now in the process of figuring that out for their place in their new ‘society’. Even in the best of circumstances, and for the most well-adjusted kids, that’s a tough job.
Besides listening, here’s what you can do. First, resist the temptation to go there and make things okay – it’s likely they won’t want that. Even if they did, you need to help them figure things out for themselves. Assure them they are not alone, and that most everyone else in their freshman class is feeling the same way. Help them connect with their new environment and get in touch with people who know how to deal with this situation. The best place for them to go is to their academic advisor. This may be a specific person or an office of professionals who see students within that major, as they come in. Either way, they know how to get students connected (and can suggest, direct, or actually do things for the student, depending on the situation), and know when more serious interventions are necessary.
Usually, students just need a listening ear or two, a feeling that they’re not alone, a nudge toward their academic advisor, and some ideas as to how to get connected. Honestly, joining an intramural team, attending a Psychology Club activity, meeting others with mutual interests (whether it’s playing Halo 3 or caring for the environment), splitting a pizza four ways at 2 a.m., or finding somebody else who needs to make a “Wal Mart run”, are often just the ticket to get a freshman out of their funk.
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