Your child lives with you for roughly 18 years before he or she goes away to school. Ideally you’ve been able to ensure that child gets enough sleep, eats as many balanced meals as possible, is safe going to and from parties, makes time to study and get homework done. Also, you are able to keep an eye on their mood and behaviour and perhaps pick up on any changes.
Once your child moves out and lives in a residence of a college or university you have to trust that they have learned all their valuable lessons and will find success in their new surroundings.
But what do you do, as their parent, when they start having difficulty? How do you help them when they can’t get a full night’s sleep for months on end because of the comings and goings of others on their residence floor? What do you do if they suddenly develop a food allergy or a physical illness? How do you hug them when they fall into a depression and beg to come home? Pretty heavy stuff, isn’t it? Well, here are some avenues you could consider.
Stay in touch. Call your child often. Ask them direct questions. I remember going to orientation days before we moved our daughter to Kingston. There were portions that were meant for both parents and students, but at one point they divided us up. The parents spent the next hour or so listening to what Queen’s University has available for students who need assistance with their mental or physical health. They spoke extensively about how important it is for parents to pay attention to verbal and non-verbal clues. They also told us about how many different services they offer to help students. It’s comforting to know that universities and colleges are focusing so much time and money on making sure students have resources to help them with the highly stressful world of higher education. Here’s an excerpt from their website, www.queensu.ca:
‘Health and Wellness
Queen’s is committed to helping students maintain a healthy lifestyle and thrive in a positive learning environment.
Health Services of HCDS
The Health Services team accommodates both routine and urgent care. The team members — including several family physicians, registered nurses, and a psychiatrist — provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for students with health concerns, including mental health issues.
Counseling Services of HCDS
Counseling Services works to foster student success and well-being while providing services that respect the values and unique needs of all people. It provides short-term counseling geared to resolving personal difficulties, dealing with crises, and distressing situations. It also works closely with partners in the Kingston community to assist students who need specialized mental health services or longer-term counseling support. Counseling Services is staffed by three psychologists, certified counselors, social workers, and trainees from the graduate program in the Department of Psychology.’
Our daughter found it hard to adjust to life at university last fall. She wanted to be involved in everything and do everything. There was certainly a learning curve for her and for us. You just never know how someone is going to react to new situations. We called often, texted daily, had many many Facetime chats, and my husband drove to Kingston a number of times to spend a few hours with her. It was vital to ensuring that she was making the necessary changes to her routine to accomplish her main goal, which was to do well at school. Everything else had to take a back seat, and that isn’t always easy to accept.
Our daughter was able to use a few of the services that the university has to offer and has managed to keep a part-time job right from the start. We are extremely proud of how far she has come since last September and fully expect things to continue to get easier. But we aren’t going to let down our guard. As parents, our healthy radar is constantly up!