How to Support Someone Who is Just Starting College

The basics are important and I am sure everyone has been up to their ears in getting everything ready for the dorm room, classes, packing and other logistics…This stuff is a must!

We are going to talk about 2 more musts: First Aid Kits (Both literal and metaphorical) followed by my quick tips for parents!!

#1 The Literal First Aid Kit.

               You may have already covered the first aid kit and that’s great, but I hear stories in my practice about kids who stubbornly don’t want to go to the nurse (either out of anxiety and/or an “’I’ve got this” mentality).  Be sure your student has all the items in the event they get hurt or sick even when they have a nurse on campus. These items include band aids, pain/fever reducer, something for digestion, stuff for bee stings or poison ivy, electrolytes, anti-sceptic, burn cream, hydrocortisone, cold medicine, hydrogen peroxide and anything else they may use at home occasionally.

All college campuses have a nurse that students can go to but sometimes (especially at first) students can be scared to go ask for help. It can be helpful for kids to know that they have what they need, especially in the beginning.  Over time they will get more comfortable with getting these things elsewhere.

#2 The Metaphorical First Aid Kit.

               This is more of a conversation and has everything to do with safety. Kids may not like talking about these issues, but I think it can be a really good idea to make sure your college student knows the following information:

Nurse’s office location

Counseling center location

Campus police phone number

The layout of the college campus and the surrounding area so that they always know where they are

Important numbers in a couple of reliable places such as wallets, purses and their dorm room in case they lose phone (parents, school numbers, roommate, etc..).

 Important conversations:

Drinking and or drugs: even if they have already experimented with this or you don’t think they will, there is a lot more freedom at college and it can be a good idea to talk about the importance of safety. Be sure they know about keeping track of their drink at parties, Uber, drinking plenty of water, eating first and pacing themselves.

Sex: So, this is something that can be very personal to families. Still, I think it’s important to let your child know that their safety is #1 and to make sure they either have or know where to get condoms and/or birth control. Per request, article on talking to your young adult about sex coming soon!

Mental health: Studies show more college students are going to school and experiencing more mental health struggles (such as anxiety and depression) than ever before.** Somewhere in between the rise in higher education costs (increased pressure to do well), less independence due to parents’ increased caution and ability to stay in touch, and the unfortunate normalcy of school shootings, anxiety has risen a great deal for college age students. 

Follow these 2 steps to best support your child:

If you know your kid struggles with mental health, ask them how you can support them during college and make sure they are connected to resources or know where to go. 

If you are not sure, ask, and let them know it’s okay if they are feeling big feelings that they may not know what to do with.

 **This is exactly what inspired Bridge Box. Bridge Box is a way to help kids get the information if they need it in a fun, supportive way—no scare tactics or pathologizing. We introduce topics like anxiety and depression, but we also talk about how sometimes it can be situational; i.e. every day worries or homesickness. The SKILLS we teach apply to it all. Find out more here.


 Things to remember over the first few weeks of the fall semester:

 Keep building your kid up with positive statements (no matter what they say, they are most likely feeling nervous and at least a little doubtful).

Try to be intentional with what you tell them to do. I see a lot of parents who are nervous and just want their kids to think of everything and if everything you say is telling them to do something, they will tune you out.

Get your own outlet for your fears so that you can be a good listener and not put your fears onto them. They do soak that up and it only creates more anxiety for them (Grown & Flown Facebook group is a great support for parents).

Ask your kids how you can support them in their first few weeks and listen to them. They will tell you what they need. It’s up to you to follow it. If they say they don’t need anything, tell them you are here if they do and let them do their thing. If you let them contact you as they are ready, the conversation will go better.

(If you do need to talk once a week, just be honest and tell them. Tell them it is about your own feelings and ask when and how you can connect with them. If you are honest with yourself, you know best what will work for your kid.)

 Thank you for reading! Please feel free to ask us any questions or email us at to suggest topics you want to know more about. Coming up is “Vaping, Juuling, & Dabbing, Oh My” and “Sex: A letter from a parent to a kid who doesn’t want to hear it.”

 From all of us at Bridge Box, Happy August and we wish you the smoothest of transitions!

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Carey J. Cook, LPC

Carey J. Cook, LPC

Carey J Cook is a Licensed Professional therapist in Asheville, NC. She has a private practice and is the co-founder of Bridge Box which was inspired by her work with college students. In different capacities, Carey has provided education and therapy to college students and families for over a decade. Carey seeks to understand and support college students during this phase of life and provide tangible tools to students via Bridge Box.