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Nancy Berk, Ph.D.

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Parenting Long-Distance: Troubleshooting College Problems

Posted: 09/17/2012 2:40 pm

This month, with millions of college students back on campus, millions of parents face the reality and intermittent difficulties of long-distance parenting. Out of sight, out of mind may work, but only when things are going smoothly.

So how can a parent provide positive support when college kids phone or text home with complaints? Below are five common college kid complaints and some solutions to get you started.

Uncomfortable Living Space
College dorms and apartments aren't always the ideal living space, but there are plenty of inexpensive products that can improve the situation. From Space Bags (that can free up closet space) to egg crates and pillow tops (making extra long twin size beds extra comfortable), parental experience and suggestions can help teens troubleshoot many dorm dilemmas.

Food Complaints
Food service might not be four star, but examining alternative meal plans, dining patterns and off-campus options can make for a happier, well-fed student.

Roommate and Relationship Conflicts
Thankfully, universities anticipate these conflicts because they happen year in and year out. Resident advisors are trained to detect problems and help students resolve conflict. Because of the demographic, university mental health counselors have experience in treating students who present with relationship problems and adjustment disorders. (Obviously, severe mental health problems should be addressed immediately via a mental health or medical facility.)

Academic Panic
From bad study skills to incompatible course choices, academic problems can be unsettling for students and their long distance parents. Fortunately, universities are prepared to help. Encourage your student to use the resources they (and you) are paying for -- Learning Centers, Writing Centers, tutor programs and consultations with faculty advisors. Familiarize yourself with these resources via the school website and gently make suggestions when you detect problems.

Post-Graduation Anxiety
As the academic year begins, it's not unusual for college juniors and seniors to worry about future plans. Whether it's competitive internships, graduate program admission or fear of unemployment, parents can help give their students an edge by being supportive and reminding them of free campus and online resources that focus on professional development and networking.

Meeting with advisors and making connections with alumni can lead to new opportunities. Virtual networking has leveled the playing field for job and internship applicants with budget or geographic limitations. For example, outside-of-the-box site InternSushi.com, virtually connects interns to leading companies in the hardest-to-break into industries by offering a multimedia platform that allows students to showcase their talents beyond the paper résumé.

As parents, we can remind our children that career development and job offers often come from the experience or contact you never saw coming. Encourage your student to investigate opportunities throughout his/her college career and to become comfortable talking about career goals. Conversations can create powerful connections, but only if you take part in the dialogue.

 

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