How to help a distressed college student
Too often students’ problems are reduced to petty descriptions and their struggles are belittled by their parents or peers. However small or insignificant college students’ issues may seem to you, the distressed college student must be handled with care.
Let’s first think about the basic day for a college student. They attend classes, which oftentimes are much more reading, written work, and time than most nine to five jobs. After class the student may work a job, or even two jobs. This is a growing phenomenon amongst students who are trying to become financially independent. Usually these jobs are the most boring, repetitive, and base work. These jobs also receive fairly low wages. Expenses also take a toll on the student’s soul. After receiving their next to nothing paychecks, the responsible student spends those earnings on groceries, gas, various fast food meals (which are key in a rush from school to work to extra-curriculars), perhaps insurance payments, etc. On top of all of this, college students share their living spaces with others. They deal with the stress of work, school, finance, and then have to go home to people they perhaps barely know, or with who they would rather not live with. At least when their parents come home from work they have chosen and hopefully enjoy the people they go home to.
I’m not trying to say that college students have it "oh-so-rough" but their struggles and stresses are new to them. They have not had the experiences that most adults have grown used to. With that newfound independence and responsible comes stress.
Parents can help their distressed college student in many ways:
1. A little bit of extra cash goes a long way. I can’t explain to you the joy of one day having seven dollars in your bank account after spending it all on expenses and not frivolities, and then the next day to look at your account and see fifty extra dollars. It’s like a miracle to the college student.
2. Send care packages! Fill them with cookies, soup, shampoo and conditioner, any necessities or goodies that you can think of. These are a great pick me up in times of stress and discomfort.
3. Help them through times of financial and academic stress by putting their problems in perspective. Sometimes your student just needs to vent, to let their stresses out without judgment or consequences. Having an open ear available to you makes all the difference in the world.
Peers with distressed college students can also help:
1. Tear your academically stressed friend away from their troubles. Distract them from things that upset them. Literally take them away from their dorm room or apartment and do something fun. Go out to a movie, take a walk, go out for some dinner, anything to get their mind off of the situation.
2. Make them a CD with relaxing or fun songs that just provide a way to escape for the student. This kind of thing helps the student remember that whatever the trouble it’s only temporary.
3. If the problem gets too serious, recommend them to the campus counseling services. Usually these are free and there is no shame in sharing your feelings with someone. Actually, I would recommend it to all students at any stressful point in their lives.
Regardless of how small and insignificant you view the college student’s problem, treat them with respect and help them to the best of your ability. College is a huge transition period from adolescence into adulthood, and being there to help the student through the stressful times makes a world of difference.