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Resources for Parents

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Your son or daughter will soon be embarking on a wonderful college career full of opportunity and growth!  Beginning college is a huge transition.  For many resident students, it’s the first time in an entirely new environment where they are away from everything that is familiar to them – friends, family, home, community.  Commuter students, while still living at home, experience changing roles and responsibilities.

Your daughter/son may experience conflicting emotions as she/he enters this new stage in life.  It is important for your student to understand that it is normal for seemingly unmanageable feelings to accompany the transition to college.

As parents, it may be tempting to want to solve your son or daughter’s problems for them, but as they adjust to college life, students need to make connections with others on campus, seek out resources, and develop the skills to handle life’s difficulties independent of parental involvement.  Some of the transitional issues your student will face in the early weeks and months of college will include:

• Adjusting to the separation from familiar people and surroundings
• Managing new freedoms and responsibilities
• Adjusting to a more demanding academic environment
• Managing time and managing finances
• Dealing with peer pressure regarding alcohol, relationships, and sexual involvement
• Choosing courses and a college major
• Learning to live with and be accepting of differences (including differences of ethnicity, race, religion, culture, values, interests, and abilities)

We find that resident students who remain on campus during the early weekends of the freshman year connect more readily with friends, activities, and resources.  You can help your student adjust by encouraging him/her to stay at college in those early weeks.  If your student is a commuter encourage him/her to engage in campus activities as much as possible.  This may help to dispel any uncomfortable feelings they may be experiencing.

Know that there are resources at Wheeling Jesuit to assist your son/daughter with these and other transitional issues.  Some of these resources include counseling services, career services, campus ministry, health services, commuter services, the international student office, the academic resource center, residence life staff, Luceats (peer mentors), first year program instructors, and faculty in general.  The WJU First Year Program is specifically designed to support students through this period of early adjustment. Encourage your college student to seek out and utilize these resources for assistance.

Throughout the college years, your relationship with your son or daughter will gradually evolve from a parent-child relationship to an adult-adult relationship.  This is a healthy and necessary development, but it can be challenging for parents and students alike.  An important hurdle for parents is learning to “let go,” while still being involved enough in your son or daughter’s life to know when they are having more serious problems.

Pay close attention to your daughter/son’s emotional well-being and mental health during these college years.  Maintain regular communication and ask how things are going.  When you talk with your son or daughter, take note if he or she mentions:

• Being sad most or all of the time
• Feeling life has no meaning, or there is no hope for the future
• No longer enjoying things he or she was once interested in
• Sleeping a lot more than usual, waking up often, or having trouble falling asleep
• Excessive drinking or partying
• Having a loss of appetite
• Having trouble concentrating
• Being tired all of the time
• Having low self-confidence
• Thinking about death and/or suicide

Feeling stressed or sad for weeks and months can indicate more than just difficulty adjusting to life’s changes.  Encourage your daughter/son to get help from the university counseling services, student health center, or a mental health professional.

There are resources at WJU to help your student with his/her adjustment to college. Please talk with your daughter/son about these resources and encourage him/her to seek help if needed.

Counseling Center 304-243-2081
Residence Life Staff - Area Coordinator (office located in the entry of your students' residence hall)
Resident Assistant staff (located on your students' residential floor)

If your son or daughter has experienced a mental health related problem in the past, make sure he or she knows where to get help and what services are offered.  Families often look at entering college as a chance for a new start, but being prepared, offering support, and paying attention to signs that there may be a problem are critical to helping your student have a healthy and productive school year.  The stress of adjusting to a new environment can also trigger a relapse of previous symptoms and concerns.

On a final note, as your student is adjusting to college life, you as parents are adjusting to changes at home.  Some helpful resources for parents during this time of transition are Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, Fourth Edition, by Karen Coburn and Madge Treeger, published by Quill, and Parents’ Guide to College Life, by Robin Raskin, published by Random House.  Both books are available online, at major bookstores, and at the WJU Campus Shop.

Congratulations, best of luck in the coming weeks of final preparations for college, and please let us know if we can help you or your son/daughter in the exciting years to come.

Sincerely,


Christine A. Ohl-Gigliotti, Ph.D.   
Dean for Student Development


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