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Mental Health

Dear Parents, Love Your Live-at-Home College Student

Dear Parents,

 

So your college student has moved back home. The semester has moved online, or maybe your child decided to save on a semester of room and board, since they have a largely, or entirely, online semester in the spring. It’s weird, we get it. Your pride and joy left for college, and they left you behind. And now, suddenly, they’re back! It’s like the good old days, right? Actually, wrong. While your child may be studying in the same room they once studied in or sleeping in their high school bedroom, they aren’t in high school anymore. Whether they were gone for a year, a semester, or not a day at all, as recent graduates, they have changed. This means your relationship with them and the way you treat them is going to have to change too.

First thing’s first, your student isn’t in high school anymore. This means the type and amount of work they are doing is drastically different. While they may have spent their senior year in seven classes, on two varsity sports teams, active in three clubs, and pursuing an active social life, they may now only have two classes a day and have not found their place in clubs yet. At the end of the day, those two college classes are exhausting. Don’t worry, we’ve already put pressure on ourselves because we aren’t doing as much as we did in high school. The last thing we need is for you to remind us of it as well. College is a big adjustment, and taking that environment and moving it online makes adjusting that much harder.

College runs on a second shift schedule. It is not uncommon to have club meetings or study sessions that don’t begin until nine or ten at night. This means your student will likely but up much later than you. What goes along with that? Your student will probably sleep in much later than you as well. Sleep is crucial to health and success, but your student is likely on a different sleep schedule than you. Try to respect that. If your student is routinely awake late into the night and sleeping into the afternoon, or waking up early and taking regular naps, this doesn’t mean they are lazy. Yes, we may be procrastinating a little from time to time, but more likely, your student knows the schedule they are on, and they are doing what needs to be done. Let them do it. 

For many, myself included, learning from home was a difficult decision because at school, the only responsibilities I have are my own and of my own choosing. I would do my laundry when my laundry needed to be done and it fit my schedule. I didn’t have dogs that needed to be walked or dishes that needed to be done, and I didn’t have siblings that needed rides. The point here is that it’s normal for parents to think “my child is living at home, so they can help out around the house.” The truth is, they can’t. If you ask them to do some chores, and they have excuse after excuse about homework and meetings, then they have homework to do and meetings to attend. They aren’t trying to get out of helping, they just don’t have that time to give. Between clubs and volunteering, part time (or full time) jobs, classes, the extra “stuff” that always comes with classes, your student is really busy and is likely already stressed about getting it all done. Please, do not try to put more on their plate unless they have told you that you can.

Don’t be offended if your student doesn’t want to “hang out” with you. Bottom line, if your student is living at home, it likely wasn’t of their own choosing. College students learning through this pandemic are giving up more than non students of this time will ever understand. We worked hard our entire lives to get to where we are, and we’ve looked forward to all of the opportunities that college provides, and now we have to sit back and do the hard part without any of the fun that goes along with it. Whether your student has expressed this to you or not, they are mourning the college experience they so desperately want. If they’re sad or upset when they spend time with you, it isn’t because they don’t want to be with you, it’s because being around you reminds them of all the things that they can’t do. Try to understand where they’re coming from and don’t make them feel guilty for wanting to be somewhere else. 

All in all, treat your student like an adult because that’s what they are. Don’t expect this to be like high school 2.0, and don’t treat it that way. Your online college student is struggling with coursework and a new learning format, giving up their social life almost entirely, watching the world happen around them because not all colleges are approaching this time the same way, and that’s before you take into account the uncertainty of the world we are growing up in. Choose kindness and patience with your college student. This is weird for all of us–we know. Please, do your best to not add any stress or pressure because we already have enough of that to turn us into diamonds. 

 

Love,

Your Live-at-Home College Student

Erika is a pre-med honors student in the Lyman Briggs college at MSU. With 3 majors there isn't a lot of time for much else but she loves writing whenever she can, going on spontaneous adventures, and thinks there is nothing better than late-night (early morning) conversations with your closest friends.
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