Problem Solving Tips for Parents

College is rarely an easy experience for a student. Most encounter some number of challenges—academic, personal, social, professional—and the lessons they learn in confronting and surmounting these challenges pay dividends across a lifetime.

The best way to problem solve at Wheelock is for your student to become familiar and comfortable with all the resources and offices on campus. Therefore, it is important that students consult our Wheelock Directories when they have a question or concern that needs to be addressed. For family-specific questions, a centralized email address has been created in order to help parents communicate and problem solve with Wheelock: family@wheelock.edu

Still, there may be times when students bump up against a problem they have no idea how to solve. They may lack the confidence in their own ability to attempt to find a workable solution. This is where a parent or family member can offer advice and have a tremendously positive impact. Below we discuss a few challenges that your student may encounter at college - both routine and serious - and offer some advice on how you can help.

Transition to college-level academics: For many students, the biggest challenge they face when coming to college is the difficulty and volume of their coursework. Some students who had an easy experience in high school find that college is the first place that really challenges them academically. The sheer volume of reading or assignments can be overwhelming, especially if a student is not adept at time management. It's important to understand that this is a completely normal experience, and with the right tools and supports, your student can succeed. Some of these tools include effective time management, consultation with an academic advisor, and working with instructors and tutors to discuss course content in greater detail.

Academic difficulty: Sometimes a student seems to fall behind academically early on and can't catch up. New students occasionally will have a particularly difficult first semester and may find themselves on academic probation, with a steep hill to climb to reach minimally acceptable academic standards. If your student is struggling academically, try to ascertain if they have lost their motivation, or can't seem to focus on their studies. Ask if they are attending class regularly, and if they are continuing to engage in normal behaviors, such as eating regularly, sleeping, exercising, or socializing with friends. If they are behaving as usual, refer them to any of the academic support services provided by the College. If not, encourage them to speak with a therapist at the counseling center.

Homesickness: Students who are attending Wheelock far from home and living on campus may confront homesickness for the first time in their lives. As a parent or family member of a homesick child, it can be exceptionally difficult to hear them report sadness or loneliness, or a wish that they could visit home every weekend. It is vitally important in these situations that you listen compassionately, but remain encouraging and supportive. Remind them that the best remedy for homesickness is to build a new social network at Wheelock. Encourage them to get involved in clubs or organizations outside of class, or to hang out and study in social spaces such as the library or the Campus Center instead of their residence room. Invite them to join a sports team, or to volunteer through one of Wheelock's many community service initiatives. Ask them to identify one peer, instructor, or staff member they like, and challenge them to get to know that person better. With proper focus, you can send the message to your student that you are there to support them and that you know they will get through this uncomfortable experience.

Serious problems: If your student becomes involved with a serious problem—such as medical or mental health emergencies, substance abuse, or a violation of college policies—Wheelock has an extensive administrative support team in place to support them, regardless of the situation. Sometimes Wheelock staff may reach out to you in these types of situations. However, it's important to know that federal privacy regulations limit the information we can share and under what circumstances. Therefore, your best line of communication is directly with your student. If you are unable to reach your student and you wish to reach out to Wheelock staff, contact the Student Life office at 617-879-2108.

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