(An Actual Photo I Sent My Mom)
A picture is worth a thousand words. A sad picture is worth a thousand more. I sent my mom an “I’m miserable” email my first month of college and attached this photo to it. She still brings this email up from time to time. It’s something she wasn’t expecting and wasn’t sure how to respond to—her unhappy ‘little girl’ was miles away and she felt helpless.
I didn’t really think about how this email would affect my mom when I pushed ‘send.’ I should have. The first few months of college were difficult and I constantly asked myself—and my parents—‘Did I make the right decision?’ However, that email was a bit melodramatic. Sorry, mom.
You may receive a few sad messages during the first semester, but if your child is anything like me, he or she is probably exaggerating how ‘bad’ things really are. It’s important to take these messages seriously, but stay positive and remember things will get better.
To help make your kid’s college transition a little less painful:
- Reassure them that they’ve made a good decision.
- Your kid may doubt his or her college choice, this is common, but you need to be the voice of reason. If these thoughts still exist after the first year, then consider transferring schools. A few months, though, is too soon—in my opinion—to know whether or not you’ve chosen the college that’s right for you.
- Pop a card in the mailbox.
- Cards may be cliché but they’re much appreciated. You’re guaranteed a smile when your kid checks the mailbox and is surprised to see it’s not empty.
- Suggest getting involved on campus.
- I was super shy until I joined a sorority my second semester freshmen year. Sometimes all it takes is joining an organization or becoming a member of a club to feel more “at home” on campus.
- Send care packages.
- Guys and girls get giddy when they get a note saying there’s a package waiting for them in the mailroom. My guy friends loved when their moms would send homemade chocolate chip cookies and silly gifts…it’s the little things that’ll make a big difference.
- Act busy. Pretend you are even if you aren’t.
- This one’s tough. The idea of coming home every weekend will be less appealing if your kid feels like he or she won’t get to spend much, if any, time with you. As much as you want to see your kid—it’s better they spend weekends at school where they can build friendships.
Dealing with an anxious college freshman isn’t going to be easy, but it’s better than dealing with the alternative. Approximately one in four students will drop out of college their first year1—you can help stop your kid from traveling down that path. It just takes a little TLC…and a bit of patience.
Now keep in mind, this was my own experience with the freshman year blues. Everyone’s different. Take a look at these symptoms of depression and see if your child is experiencing something more serious than stress and homesickness. And if they are experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure they seek help immediately at their campus counseling center.
1 Whitbourne, Jonathan. (2007). The Dropout Dilemma. http://moneymanagement.unt.edu/pdf/documents/dropout.pdf