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Student and Parents Both Lost

Dear Harlan: My son is in his first semester at college. We thought he might be having a hard time, and we were right. He is four hours away from home and wants to come home on most weekends. All he does is complain about his roommate. He says his professors can’t teach, and that’s why he’s struggling. Or he’ll complain that there’s nothing to do on campus – no organization is good enough. Every suggestion we make is answered with an excuse or a complaint. My husband and I are out of answers. This weekend, he talked about coming home at the end of the semester. We told him he has to stick it out at least a year. He said that he’s going to finish the semester and then come home and go to our local community college. I know that he can get through this, but he doesn’t see it – or he doesn’t want to see it. We have dealt with this before. He is the victim, and everyone else is the problem – including us. When is it time to stop pushing him to keep going? Should we just let him do what he wants and let him figure it out? — Lost

Dear Lost:  He doesn’t need to stay on campus; he needs a plan. A plan consists of a goal and a path to get there. It includes people to support the goal and places where he can reach his goal. Instead of forcing him to stay, encourage him to come up with a plan. This will be the path he follows. A plan is NOT simply leaving, going home and figuring it out. Going home, attending a community college for a period of time, getting a specific part-time job that relates to his interests and giving it a year to see where he can go to complete his degree can be a plan that works. I’ll be the first to tell you – some kids should not be in college. They aren’t ready. According to The American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment data, almost half of all college students felt hopeless over the past 12 months. Let him come up with a plan that gives him hope. In addition to leaning on you, counselors and advisers, he can lean on a therapist. Instead of pushing him to stay, help him come up with a new plan.

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  1. Janet

    If half of college students feel hopeless, I don’t think you should just blame that on kids not being ready. If it’s that widespread, the institutions (high schools and colleges) and perhaps our culture have to share some of the blame.

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