When Home Issues Strike
Many college students face difficult situations while away at school. Consider a student whose family member dies mid-semester, or a student who goes through a significant break-up. It can be hard to cope with problems such as these without your family in close proximity.
There are others, but below is a list of possible problems that can occur with family or loved ones while you are at school:
- The death of a family member or loved one
- The death of a pet
- The break up of a romantic relationship
- A family member/loved one dealing with addiction
- A family member/loved one dealing with serious mental health problems
- Family/loved ones experiencing financial problems
- A family member/loved one dealing with a life-threatening illness
- A family member/loved one going through a traumatic event (e.g., accident, assault)
- A family member/loved one joining the military or getting deployed
- A disaster happening at home (e.g., natural disaster, terrorist attack)
When significant problems arise, there are ways you can help yourself cope:
Get support. This might mean going home to be with family and friends. Seek out support while at school through friends, professors, and campus resources such as counseling.
Manage your stress in healthy ways. Try to maintain healthy eating, exercise, and sleep routines. Set realistic expectations and realize that you may not be performing at your best when dealing with a significant problem.
Have emotional outlets. It can be vital to express negative feelings rather than keeping them inside. Find a friend that is able to listen and give support when you need to talk. Try utilizing creative outlets such as music, dance, art or journaling.
Talk with professors. Depending on the situation at home, you may decide to leave school for a period of time to be with family. Let your professors know your plans and work out how to make up missed assignments in advance.
Communicate with family. It can be difficult to be away during a family crisis if you are unable to go home. Ask to be informed of significant changes and decisions being made.
Strive for balance. If you are staying at school, it can be greatly beneficial to maintain your regular routine such as going to class, completing school work and socializing with friends.
Take time for yourself. You may find you need some additional pampering when going through a trying ordeal. Consider talking with a counselor or spending more time doing your favorite hobby.
Transferable skills. Think about what has helped you in the past deal with a loss or difficult event. Try applying the same helpful coping strategies to the current situation.
Consider your options. Some students decide a leave of absence or withdrawal is most appropriate given the circumstances. If you feel you will be unable to make up work that you missed, or that you need to go home to take care of a loved one or your own health, the best option may be leaving school temporarily or permanently. This is a big decision, so take time in exploring alternatives and seek support and guidance from family, mentors, professors and other school personnel.
Remember you do not have to go through a difficult situation alone. Colleges and universities typically have numerous resources for students and many are free of charge. Here are some departments/personnel on campus to consider when needing help and support:
- Counseling Center/Wellness Center
- Health Center
- Religious/spiritual services on/near campus
- Student Life departments
- Resident Life staff (e.g., RA, RCC)
- Disability Services/Academic Support Services