Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Crowded house: Tips for parents suddenly hosting a college student

by Luanne Williams

We may all be social distancing because of COVID-19, but new study-at-home and work-from-home regiments necessitated by the outbreak have brought hundreds of thousands of college students and their parents closer than expected – at least physically. 

Wingate suspended its in-person classes on March 13, and the vast majority of residential students had moved back to their parents’ homes by the following evening.

As students and professors adjust to online instruction, the University’s counseling staff is offering tips to parents, who are making their own adjustments.

Wingate University counselor Kaye Richard.

“Parents should make their mental health a priority and make sure they are taking care of themselves so that they can also take care of others in their household,” says Kaye Richard, a clinical counselor at the Wingate Health Center. 

She says parents’ modeling of good self-care practices, such as meditation, journaling and self check-ins, can help their young adults learn how to find self-care practices that work for them. 

“Try to make some time as a family to check in and see how everyone is doing and ways that the family can be supportive of each other’s needs,” she advises, “but recognize that students may also still want some elements of independence.”

More tips from Richard and Corinne Harris, Wingate’s director of counseling services, who last week offered tips to students:

  • Acknowledge that your student is not home on spring/summer break and is carrying a full load of courses online. Try to give them some space and the resources they need to be successful in their classes.

  • Remember that your student has most likely changed a bit since high school. They may have different sleeping/eating habits, new living routines and changed communication styles. Try to be open and flexible.

  • Try not to take your student’s potential disappointment at being home personally. They are away from their normal routines, structure, campus resources and friends. They are probably grieving some losses (graduation, saying goodbye to friends, sporting events, campus activities they’ve planned for all year).

  • Resist the urge to try to fix your student’s feelings of isolation. Many are feeling stuck under shelter-in-place orders. Your natural inclination may be to help by connecting with them frequently. Instead, ask them what would be helpful. They may prefer space or connecting with friends (virtually) instead, or they may ask for more interaction with you right now.

  • Look for and acknowledge positive outcomes of this situation. Maybe you have more time to reflect, get outside, exercise or eat healthy. During times of uncertainty, everything that is important becomes clear.

  • Practice gratitude. This is helpful for everyone’s mental and emotional health. 

  • Be assured that surviving adversity and crises builds resilience. What your college student is going through now will help them handle future bumps in the road.

Richard acknowledges that adjustments are difficult but emphasizes the need for parents to take care of themselves.

“Are you experiencing increased anxiety, irritability, depression and confusion? Try to prioritize your own mental health,” she says. “This will be tough, as you are likely feeling all sorts of pressure to create a sense of balance and calm for your family. By tending to your own mental health needs, you will also be tending to your family’s needs.” 

March 31, 2020

  • Blue&Gold Bulletin