College students are not the only ones whose world has been turned upside down as a result of COVID-19. With college campuses closing worldwide and study abroad students being forced to return to the U.S. early, many parents are adjusting to having their college students back at home.
We understand this time is just as emotional and confusing for parents as it is for students.
For students who had to return early from study abroad, there is a mandated 14-day quarantine. For parents whose children just got home, this two-week period can be difficult as you most likely want to be able to comfort them. However, according to the CDC, self-isolating is of utmost importance to protect you and your loved ones. Once the two weeks are up, you’re still left at home with a college child who just went through a very traumatic experience and has re-entered a country full of uncertainty.
This situation is new territory for all of us. At USAC, we’re here for our students and our parents during this challenging time. As we find and create valuable resources, we will continue to share them with students and parents. In the meantime, we’ve reached out to our Health and Safety team, and other members of the higher education community, to pull together some tips for how parents can help their children’s re-entry transition.
10 Tips for Parents Whose Children Just Returned from Study Abroad
#1. Read USAC’s resource about re-entry
USAC is committed to creating and sharing resources related to helping students with re-entry after the coronavirus. We’ve published two articles that will be sent to all students, but it’s a good idea for parents to read them as well to get a better understanding of what your child might be feeling in these upcoming weeks and months:
#2: Understand your child had a traumatic experience
Many students have been planning their study abroad for years. Once they realized it was happening, they were looking forward to months or even a year of living abroad, growing and learning. Try to keep in mind that your child’s study abroad experience was halted abruptly, and they had no control over the situation. They’re likely feeling very disappointed and sad, and this is okay. We recommend being supportive but also giving your child space and time to grieve.
#3. Encourage a new routine
Encourage your child to develop a routine that includes self-care. Healthy meals, eating together as a family, exercising and sleep are all extra important right now. This routine should also include attending online coursework if that’s an available option.
#4. Be aware of your requests and your child’s priorities
Just because your child was pulled from their host country does not mean their study abroad experience is over. Many students can and should continue their academics online so they can still receive credit for their study abroad courses. We also understand that many families are suffering financially and having another mouth to feed at home may have you asking your child to go get a job. Be mindful of the responsibilities they still have to their study abroad academics and create a contribution plan that works for both of you.
#5. Know some children will probably get sick
Some students might experience anxiety about getting sick in the early weeks after returning home. While you might not be able to prevent your child from getting sick if they were directly exposed to the virus, make sure your family members and child follow the government guidelines regarding quarantine and symptom monitoring. If anyone in your household develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, contact your physician immediately.
#6. Remind your child to check their email
USAC’s main source of communication is via email. We know that our students are getting A LOT of communication from us right now, but we also don’t want them to miss anything important.
#7. Say yes to video games and Netflix
While we do not recommend anyone over-consume media related to the coronavirus right now (as that has been shown to increase anxiety), we do recommend you allow your child to play video games, watch Netflix, and spend time on their phones. These activities offer some escape during a difficult time.
#8. Encourage keeping in touch with friends
If there is anyone that understands what your child is currently going through it’s their study abroad friends. Encourage your child to reach out to their friends, create virtual dates, or simply stay in touch. We can all help each other get through this time.
#9. Pay attention to attitude and personality
If you sense that your child is not able to cope with the situation and exhibits symptoms of serious anxiety or depression, seek professional help. Some campus counseling clinics are offering virtual counseling; however, if this is not an option, seek professional local help. Try and be a source of comfort for your child and encourage them to talk to you about what they’re feeling and going through.
#10. Ask your student what they need from you
Simply ask your student, “What can I do to help you right now?” This could provide insight into where they are emotionally. Maybe they want to be left alone, maybe they want a hug, or maybe they just want to be heard. Don’t be afraid to admit that we’re all feeling uncertain right now. Remind them that they have the skills and resilience to get through this time and that you’re in this together.
COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in everyone’s life in one way or another. Nobody signed up for this, but we’re all in this together. USAC is here and dedicated to helping you and your students navigate these times. For parents who have questions, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org