Struggle in college is normal.  In fact, if anything, it’s expected.  With ease and access for students to talk to update their parents on their situation, it’s easy for parents to dive right in and feel the need to rescue their young adult.  Often, parents are quick to rid their child of their discomfort.  For your kid to be successful though, you as a parent, must remember that struggle is normal, alongside the stress.  Although this may sound like the worst advice, you must let your kid figure it out on their own.  If you don’t let them struggle, they’ll never build resilience for struggles in the future.  And there will be struggles in the future!

Below are a list of the top five things parents do right according to Dr. Marcia Morris’ The Campus Cure parent guidebook.  If you are a parent of a college student, or soon-to-be-student, you definitely need to check this book out!  Proactively knowing what to anticipate will help you navigate the calls and texts that plead that you swoop in and save them.  Think again!

  1. Recognize the seriousnessPay attention to the language your young adult is using.  Ask about he duration of the symptoms.  Notice what the symptoms are themselves, and the seriousness of them. If your child is capable of advocating for themselves, let them. If they are completely paralyzed by anxiety, be attentive to when it’s appropriate to intervene to provide support.
  2. Disclose your own struggles to normalize the situation Humanize yourself to your own child.  They may forget that you were once a college student and/or young adult too.  If you disclose your own struggles to your child it may provide a sense of relief for their current situation.  Or the empathy and sympathy will help them feel a sense of comfort in a very uncomfortable time.
  3. Promote medication (if applicable)Depending on what your child is struggling with, medication may be an avenue worth exploring.  It’s not for everyone either!  If this is something you want to explore, make sure you seek out a Psychiatrist who will also prescribe medications if you are also seeing a Therapist.  Medication alone is not enough.  
  4. Remain hopeful and confident When your child can’t see the forest through the trees, it’s important for you to remain hopeful of the situation.  In this exact moment, life may feel very miserable for them and they can’t see the light.  You, as the parent, need to make sure you are keeping in mind the big picture.  If they are asking to come home and it’s seven days into the semester, you want to kindly encourage them to stay a little longer.  They are looking to you to be a beacon of hope in a very turbulent time.  Be confident that it will get better if they get connected to the on and off-campus resources that could support them.  They may not be able to believe you now, and yet they may have a sliver of hope.
  5. Provide follow-up support This is experience is most likely not a one-and-done type event.  You will want to follow-up with your child to make sure that they’re hanging in there.  Send encouraging texts, schedule phones calls, or even coordinate a visit.  Set boundaries though, as you don’t want to become the rescue button for your child.  You want to be a sounding board and a warm, comforting hug, and a cheerleader rooting from afar.

It’s hard not to want to help your child.  They need to be on their own.  Sometimes, that means learning to tackle anxiety or building new friendships.  As a parent, make sure you are letting them figure it out on their own. Know when it’s okay for them to struggle, and know when their situation requires stepping in.

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For questions or comments contact Joanna at 970-218-9958 or via email.


  • Joanna Lilley, MA, NCC

    Therapeutic Consultant / Young Adult Transition Specialist / College Success Coach

    Lilley Consulting

    After previously working at two institutions of higher education, specifically in Student Success & Retention, Joanna hung up her shingle to provide support for the flight of students leaving colleges campuses.  She now dedicates herself to working solely with emerging adults who unravel when they land on a college campus.  Her passion and drive is to coach this population back into good academic standing, or connect this population to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs that will provide stability, sobriety, and the executive functioning skills this population needs to move forward in life.  Most of her clients are currently enrolled on campus, or those who have already left feeling defeated.  With a magic wand, Joanna supports young adults with mental health issues with their the transition into adulthood and back into higher education.  Fear not, she works with the entire family system to help them heal and grow as this is not a "quick fix."  You can learn more about Lilley Consulting by checking out the website.  You can also listen to the Success is Subjective Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or any podcast listening platform where she interviews individuals across the country who took a break during their emerging adulthood years.  This podcast is ideal for young adults or families members who are looking for hope and relief in supporting a loved one.  When not working with young adults, you will find Joanna writing or playing outdoors with her rescue pup in the mountains of western Colorado.