Letting Go: The First Semester
By Bud Edwards
Your child is now a first-year student at Ole Miss. He or she has attended a class (hopefully several classes), seen the Grove in all its glory, read a college syllabus (hopefully), and maybe even run the length of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium recently. He or she has probably been a little homesick, missed home cooking, missed familiar sights and sounds or missed friends who are no longer nearby.
Those are all typical events during the first few weeks of classes, and your child has had an emotional reaction to them. It may have been small or isolated or transient, but chances are it has been there. This is a normal part of any transitional phase that we as human beings go through multiple times in our lives. Here are some things to look out for and some reminders for you.
This is all normal. If your child misses you, that’s what is supposed to happen when y’all aren’t together. If your child is happy to be away from home, that’s what is supposed to happen if he or she is excited about the next phase of his or her life. If your child is both of those, let’s celebrate the next time you are in town. Let them go and enjoy this time of their lives. Let them schedule appointments for themselves, let them make mistakes, and, then, let them make up for their mistakes. These next four years are all about them growing up, so let’s give them space and time to do so. This, too, is normal.
When your child gets a little lonely, remind him or her that around 20,000 people are on this campus, some of whom are bound to be like him or her. Over 300 student organizations are established for your child to go find his or her niche at Ole Miss.
When your child runs out of money, ask him or her what it was spent on before you pony up some more. This is a great time in life to learn fiscal responsibility. When your child gets anxious or depressed, remind him or her that there are any number of student peers and trained staff or faculty who will be glad to answer questions, offer support or guidance, or help with professional services. Accessing many of these services, including the services at the University Counseling Center, is just a visit or a phone call away.
If your child tells you that he or she is not eating or sleeping, then it might be important for him or her to talk to a community assistant, a residence hall director, or an adviser or faculty member. If he or she tells you this has been going on for a week or more, it might be time to suggest a visit to the Counseling Center. If you notice a significant change in your child’s behavior, it might be time to suggest a visit to the UCC. If your child tells you or hints to you that he or she has thought of harming himself/herself, then it is time for you to encourage a visit to the Counseling Center and for you to call us or someone you know here at the university with this information.
We want all of our students to have a good experience here and are willing to help them have that experience. We need help from them and you to know what is wrong, and we need your and their cooperation to help make things better.
This is my 24th year as a mental health provider on a college or university campus. I have watched my own daughter go through college, graduate and now be a productive member of society. I love this time in a young person’s life and all the challenges that come with it. I love helping students achieve their educational goals. Let’s make it a good start.
Bud Edwards, Ph.D., LP, HSPP, is director of the University Counseling Center at the University of Mississippi.