How can I help my student from a distance?
The following are ways that you can help your college student while at the same time fostering separation and independence:
- Stay in touch, but coach from the sidelines. Although you want to encourage your college student to make connections away from home, it is also important that they know you care and are interested in their lives. Try to find a balance by keeping in touch while allowing them the opportunity to learn to manage life on their own. For example, arrange a few times during the week to talk on the phone and try to avoid constant contact (via phone call, text, etc.). Contact that is too frequent can make it hard for them to become an independent person.
- Keep conversations open-ended. Give your college student space to share information with you and be careful about being overly critical and judgmental. You want to encourage safety but you also want to present as someone that can tolerate the changes they are making in their lives. Offer support and help, but try not to control. For example, you might ask your college student what they did over the weekend and how it felt for them rather than berating them for arriving home at a late hour.
- Be realistic, not perfectionistic. Remember that we all make mistakes and struggle in one way or another. It is important for your college student to realize that stress and failure are normal experiences in life. When it comes to grades and/or social success, make sure that you set realistic expectations with them so that they can work on internalizing their own goals without becoming overwhelmed with unrealistic ideas of themselves.
- Keep in mind all of the resources offered at the university, and encourage your college student to make use of these resources. You might do a little research on your own, and then ask them, “Have you thought about [a resource, such as the Counseling Center, Advising, an RA, Career Development, or Dean of Students Office]. I wonder if they may be able to help?”