How Families and Parents Can Support Student Success and Well-Being

A student and her family members pose for a photo on campus during Family Weekend, holding umbrellas

This article was contributed by the JHU Counseling Center.

In November, as we settle into our rhythms and routines for the fall academic semester, it is a perfect time to stop and take stock of our well-being. Life in general gives us joys and challenges, but with the added stressors of 2020 and 2021, it is even more important to pause and reflect on our mental, emotional, and physical health.

The past year and a half has been full of uncertainty, anxiety, and threats to our health and safety. Many of us rushed to come back to campus, re-start jobs, and/or re-engage in our “normal” lives. However, we may not have had the opportunity to reflect on what our normal life should look like. As you contemplate ways to support your student’s health and well-being, keep in mind the following tips:

Maintain Communication

During the previous year of remote learning, students and their families had opportunities to be physically closer than expected, and for some, it led to more intimacy and emotional closeness. Whether your family’s experiences were positive or negative, it is an adjustment for a student to return to school, and some families and parents may feel a greater sense of loss when their student leaves home. It is important to maintain communication with your student and find appropriate boundaries that work for you both.


Let your student tell you about their daily life and ask them about what is and isn’t going well. Listen with curiosity and an eagerness to learn how they are growing and changing as they adapt to this new college experience.

Provide Support and Guidance

College is a time of uncertainty, and as students mature, they often need a check-in: a moment to connect with you and receive positive reinforcement. Even as they develop independent lives, they will still benefit from your support and guidance. Make sure you are aware of campus and local resources and be ready with suggestions if your student asks for them. You can also take a collaborative approach toward problem-solving: instead of jumping in to rescue your student, you can research options together and let your student decide which path they wish to take.

Learn from Mistakes and Help Them Bounce Back

Particularly in moments when they encounter an unexpected challenge, students will turn to the people they trust. Having family support in those moments can provide a sense of security and grounding for students. Remember that you don’t need to solve problems for your student; just be there to help them think through their options and give them support when they decide what they want to do. Over time, this builds their confidence to know that when a challenge arises, they will be able to manage it. Remind your student not to be afraid of making a mistake—they’re human, and missteps happen—but help them get back up to face the next challenge by sharing motivating words and messages.

Engage in Self-Care and Nurture Your Body and Mind

We can attend to multiple dimensions of our health through restful sleep, healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and ongoing stress management and/or mindfulness techniques. Ask your student what they are doing to keep themselves healthy, and share your tips for staying energized. Visit the JHU Wellness site for tips, blog entries, and other resources. And when extra support is needed, don’t hesitate to reach out to find support additional help for yourself and/or your student.