Message to Parents About Well-Being

College is an exciting time for students, but it can also be challenging. Washington and Lee University provides a number of services to assist with the emotional well-being of students while they meet those challenges. Some students will seek professional assistance while they are at W&L, while others will seek out support in alternative forms, such as talking with a friend, family member, peer counselor, resident adviser, or by using a dynamic text and chat counseling resource that we are excited to share with you.

As you and your student prepare for orientation and matriculation, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the TELUS Health Student Support App. The TELUS Health Student Support Program is a free, confidential online counseling service offering mental health support and well-being resources for all W&L students via text, phone or video 24/7. We encourage you to check out their website.

In addition, you, as parents, play an enormous role in supporting your student as they navigate the demands of college life. Below are some pointers for how to balance helping your student directly vs. allowing them to discover their strengths for themselves and open new doors of resilience as young adults.

Allow Your Students to Do Things for Themselves
We all know how tempting it is to assist our children when we have an opportunity to do so, but this doesn't mean it's always the right thing to do. Developmentally speaking, college is a time when parents need to stop taking care of their students' problems for them and to be more focused on being good listeners. Offer advice only when your student has exhausted their own ideas or if they are in a true crisis. Otherwise, allow them the chance to manage things on their own.

Manage Your Frequency of Contact
Parents must understand that the best thing for their student is to be given the space to find their own resources for support and advice, and to be allowed to think through their own solutions, which will help them build emotional and social resiliency outside the context of family. With that in mind, having daily contact with your student, including texting, could become an impediment to their developing other support networks and means of solving their problems if you are their only outlet. Be prepared for and accepting of your student's texts and calls becoming less frequent than you might be accustomed to.

Give Your Child Permission to Struggle
A Washington and Lee education can challenge students in new ways they haven't experienced before, and even the slightest academic or social struggle could give students a sense that they don't belong. It is extremely important to express to your child that it's okay to come up short of their goals. A disappointing grade or not obtaining the desired internship or leadership position on campus doesn't mean they have failed or don't fit in. Science tells us that students need to face a certain amount of adversity during their college careers to develop optimal mental health and well-being. Without this adversity, your student will struggle to develop into the high-functioning, resilient young adult we want them to become as they graduate and make their way into the world. Give them permission to struggle and support them as they increase their tolerance for challenges and strengthen their resilience.

Praise Their Behaviors and Hard Work, Not Their Traits
Over the years, we've learned a great deal about self-esteem. There was a time when we thought that telling young people how talented or smart they are improved their self-esteem. We would try to "pump them up." Unfortunately, this narrative has been proven to have a negative effect on young people's self-esteem. We've learned this approach creates a belief that they're either born smart or wonderful or athletic - or they're not, and that these traits are simply not under their control.

What students do control is how they behave - how hard they work, how much they're willing to stretch themselves out of their comfort zone, how they prepare for an exam or a performance or a match. When we provide students feedback on how they're behaving - rather than what their traits are - it builds their self-esteem and makes them more effective. As your student dives into this academic year, we encourage you to praise your student's behaviors and hard work (not their traits) as they face the challenges of college life head-on.

-University Counseling Center