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by Dr. Brad Schwall
| College, Young Adults, Families, Counseling, COVID-19, Corona Virus

Supporting (and sheltering with) Your College Student

We’re all adapting. Managing what is happening in our homes is one small part of all that is happening across our nation.

In managing our homes when college students are home, we must first remember this is a serious crisis that is leading to death across the world and within our own communities.

We’re all adapting. Managing what is happening in our homes is one small part of all that is happening across our nation. This may be motivation for us to live together and work together and cooperate to make our circumstances as positive and pleasant as possible.

Supporting your college student

Our first step in supporting our college students is to have empathy for the changes and challenges they are facing.

They are in the midst of a time in their lives when they are developing a sense of identity while also building and nurturing close relationships. Their worlds revolve around friendships and preparing for their futures. The young adult years are always impacted by some anxiety about the future and the unknown. This crisis amplifies that anxiety.

Our attitude towards our college students must be one of respect and empathy. We must express that we have confidence in their ability to navigate their lives. Questioning and criticism undermine their developing sense of responsibility and ability to self-direct. We must manage our own anxiety about their futures in order to allow them to develop a sense of responsibility for themselves.

They are missing out on key social events and events celebrating milestones, such as graduation ceremonies. First, validate this sense of loss, and second, encourage creativity in addressing the issue. How can they connect in different ways now? What can be planned in the future? Celebrating milestones is key to recognizing passage through the stages of life. Find new ways to maintain those important celebrations.

Being under the same roof with our college students while they must continue their responsibilities as students and while we are maintaining our work lives presents unique challenges. We must work through these areas with compromise and cooperation. It may help to differentiate roles and responsibilities.


College students have been away at school. Their routine will vary from yours. We can’t control how they manage time when they are away, this remains true when they are home.

The one area when this issue does converge with our needs would obviously be noise. Quiet when needed is a joint matter for which all must work together and compromise. Have a system for communicating when you do not want interruptions to your work – whether your’s or your college student’s.

Who owns the decision? Parent or college student? Your college student makes his or her schedule except when noise may impact the family.

School work

Your college student has developed his or her own study habits. These habits may also vary from your’s. They are responsible for their studies when they are away from us and the same is true when we are all under the same roof. Keep in mind their professors are also navigating new waters with distance learning, class management and expectations.

Who owns the decision? Parent or college student? Your college student makes decisions for how to manage school work.


Your home is now everyone’s space. Young adults may have their own room and have some control over their own space, but the goal is to encourage each person to be responsible for creating a pleasant place to be. Each person’s own space does impact the overall feel of the home.

Discuss together what seems reasonable to expect. Ask for each other’s input. Avoid sarcasm or escalating the conversation. Focus on what is best for everyone. Have reasonable expectations and know when to step back.

Who owns the decision? Parent or college student? Everyone! This topic requires compromise.

Encouragement for college students

This is a time to help others. Complying helps keep others safe.

The current situation will not last forever. How do you want to look back on this time? How can you thrive during these times? Regardless of our current situation, what do you picture for your life in two years? Five years? Life may be impacted, but our plans for our future and goals will still unfold.

As a family, have empathy, join together to achieve the common goal of navigating these unprecedented times. Look for how this experience may change the way you relate for the positive. How can you take advantage of this opportunity to show your confidence in your college student and to connect in new and different ways?

A key to thriving through crisis is to look for opportunity. Our lives won’t be the same. Make your lives and relationships different in positive ways.

Would your college student benefit from tele-counseling?

If your college student, you or another member of your family would like to connect with someone at The Center – we’re available. Remote sessions are covered by insurance. You can conveniently access any of our therapists through tele-counseling using our HIPAA-compliant video and phone platform. Call 214-526-4525 to schedule an appointment online.

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