When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was in Europe, separated for months from my family back in the United States. Even after I reunited with my husband and teenage and young-adult children in January 2021, we faced another separation that fall when my eldest child went away to college.

Though still in-state, she chose to live on campus, juggling classes and social life and facing opportunities to make both good choices and mistakes.

She calls and texts often. During one call in which she complained about a not-so-compatible roommate, I asked if she found her faith useful in resolving conflicts and living on her own. I hoped her answer would be a resounding “yes.”

“No,” she replied, “I don’t think to myself, ‘Let me use faith to solve my problems or find answers.’ But some of what I do has traits of faith, what I learned in the church. I don’t do anything because I think God will love me more or will be angry.”

To be clear, she doesn’t always make the best choices or treat her not-so-compatible roommate with the absolute love of Christ, but I think her faith helps her reset and try grace.

From her response I learned that, though church traditions may have impacted her life, her faith community has made the larger impact. Over the years she has seen us give our “best reverent try” without fearing that God will turn away from us.

Practices

Let your college student know that you’re always available. Remind them often that you can connect on matters great and small or even pray together. We are just a phone call away.

Take care of mental and spiritual health. Many college campuses have resources to help students adjust to and cope with challenges away from home. Ask your student to familiarize themself with the campus ministry, even if they aren’t ready to participate. Share their college address with your congregation; it may have a ministry of sending care packages to students. Most campuses have mental health clinics that offer a certain number of free sessions; urge your student to take advantage of these benefits if needed. If they are under a physician’s care for mental health, ask if they need help keeping up with medication or appointments to stay on track.

Engage in daily prayer. I say a daily prayer for my children, not for anything in particular but to give me peace of mind.

My daughter, though not named, has given me permission to tell her story.

Adrainne Gray
Adrainne Gray is an ELCA deacon and the communications officer for Lutheran World Federation.

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