The Difficulty of Giving Relationship Advice

Posted October 20th, 2009 by collegemomindebt and filed in Parent to Parent
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While at college my daughters have developed new relationships. As they have explored these relationships they have asked me to be a sounding board, someone with whom they can talk about these relationships.

If asked, my daughters would tell you that I do fairly well when it comes to providing ideas on how to improve relationships with other women at school. However, they would also tell you that my advice is not very helpful when it comes to relationships with men. This is because there is one significant barrier regarding relationships with men. That barrier is vocabulary.


You see, the language of relationships between men and women has radically changed since I was a girl.

In the late 1960s “going steady” was something fifth and sixth graders did. A boy and girl who were going steady actually never really went anywhere together off the school grounds. It simply was a term that meant they liked each other and wanted to be considered exclusive in their relationship and might even exchange gifts like friendship or Mizpah half hearts that made up a whole necklace or a tin of homemade fudge for a fountain pen.

In the 1970s and early 1980’s “dating” meant that a young man and young woman scheduled an activity together and would use that time to explore whether they wanted to spend even more time together. Dating could occur as group dating or as solo dating and solo dating a series of different young men was acceptable as long as physical contact was limited. And then, when dating would become limited to just one young man, that man then was titled “boyfriend”.

The next steps could include “becoming promised” (signified by a promise ring), “becoming engaged” (signified by an engagement ring) and then getting married (signified by an elaborate ceremony).

For my daughters, “going steady” is an unknown term replaced by “going out”, “going with” and “going together” which each can mean something different (don’t ask me about the distinctions between them because even after eight years of conversations I still “don’t get it”). However, it is possible that all three “going” phrases don’t actually mean going anywhere together. What I consider really noncommittal questions like “do you want to hang out” and “are we dating now” can mean “will you be my boyfriend?” and “having a dtr” means having a conversation in which the couple defines the relationship.

There are also regional differences in terms. In one private college in a small mid-western town “they’re frugaling” means that everyone believes this couple is “dating” (planning on getting married) but they haven’t admitted it publicly yet.

So as a parent what do I do about this communication gap? I simply say, “When you are at home, my definitions apply. When you are with your friends and acquaintances at school you can use your own terms.”
So is there any consolation in this? Yes, I can better understand now my parents and grandparents frustration when they were mentoring me about heterosexual relationships. They used phrases like “getting pinned” (signified by the young man giving the girl his fraternity pin) and “courting”.
Even with our very best efforts as the older generation, we need others to come alongside our young adult offspring to help them navigate new relationships because we simply aren’t going to be able to “get it right” all the time.

College and Depression

Posted October 16th, 2009 by collegemomindebt and filed in Depression
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Campus WalkWhen I was a college student, I was hit by depression from more than one direction. I was over 2,000 miles from home. I was the oldest of four siblings and until I left for college I had had significant responsibility for the daily routine of my two youngest siblings. When I left home for school, not only was my personal routine seriously disrupted, but also my family’s routine at home was seriously disrupted. My parents had a rocky relationship and the “D” word was often brought up in front of my younger siblings. For most of my college years my father was laid off from his long-time employer. My mother suffered from a serious thyroid condition and for monetary reasons was not taking her medicine. Reports from my siblings at home about threats of suicide and heated arguments prompted me to phone home as often as I could afford to do so. However, as a first generation four year college student on a full-ride scholarship from a low income family, I couldn’t afford to fly home and make things better. I could only phone home and try to listen, speak encouragement and pray.

At the same time that all this was going on at home, I was very lonely at school. As a freshman I didn’t realize that campus shut down for the holidays and I was brought to tears when I realized I had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. My roommate was only hours from home but she didn’t like me. She had hoped for an affluent roommate who could afford to invite her home for the holidays. Needless to say I was a big disappointment to her. Thankfully, another classmate took pity on me and invited me home with her and I had a lovely and restful week with her family.

Not only was my mom highly depressed during my college years, but through my four years at college as I walked through campus there were times when I thought of dying and even had specific ideas of how that could happen. Prior to college I had never had suicidal thoughts. At home I had had a place I could go (a hogsback or big hill behind my house that I could climb up) and from there I could either scream out loud with no one to hear me or just sit and let the wind blow as I looked down at my house, my high school and the town where I lived and worked. Getting that perspective from on high served to calm me and help me put the issues in my life in proper perspective. At school I had nowhere where I felt I could safely get away from people. While I was doing well in my classes, I often had thoughts that the school had made a mistake, I thought I wasn’t really good enough to be there.

Thankfully, I found friends who could sympathize with my depression and loneliness. Many of these friends were students from other countries – some of whom pointed out that I was actually further from home than they were. One friend my freshman year was an upper class student who had a severe eating disorder. Her own struggles had caused her to be very observant and perceptive and she picked up on some of my behaviors as indicating depression. She took me aside and expressed her concern and just that simple conversation helped me feel I wasn’t as alone as I thought.

Now as a mother of three daughters, I am happy to report that so far none of my daughters have exhibited depression behaviors and yet they have each had friends who did. Each time a friend has confided suicidal thoughts to one of my daughters, I have encouraged that daughter to seek out one adult who that friend trusted and I have supported my daughter in contacting that adult to ask for help in addressing the situation. Each time the friend at first was angry over what she perceived as a breach in confidentiality, but then as that one trustworthy adult actually helped implement an intervention within a few days the friend was thankful that my daughter cared enough to enlist help.

From experience, I know that depression, especially in the form of suicidal thoughts, is serious, and usually requires the help of professionals to get safely beyond. Because I know struggles happen even in healthy families, I encourage people to use the resources that are available to them and I am happy to recommend resources like I subscribe to this service for my daughters because it is an affordable support system for students who don’t have a hogsback to climb or a friend who’s been there to help when help is needed. The peace of mind is well worth the low monthly expense.

Keeping Friendship Loss in Perspective – Stress Less Tip

Posted September 24th, 2009 by Maria Pascucci and filed in College Grad to Student, Stress
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Best friendsThrough the power of Facebook, I was able to reconnect with a friend from high school this morning. We were best friends in 9th and 10th grade, but as things tend to happen in our teen years, our friendship fell apart. I was devastated. I wrote through my pain even back then. I recovered. I lost other friends through the years as I transitioned into college, and later, as I transitioned into the woman I am today. Each time I lost a friend, I learned a new lesson:

Accept what you cannot control. Did you have a falling out with your friend? Have you tried to apologize to no avail? Are you spending all your time focusing on how angry you are with your friend because she hurt you, or perhaps you hurt her and now one of you refuses to try to forgive the other?

Consider trying to accept that while you cannot control your friend’s behavior, you can control your own. Take this opportunity to do a little self-investigation. What can you gain from your fallout with your friend? What mistakes did you make that you can learn from and never repeat again? Can you grieve the loss of your friendship while letting go of your anger? Can you forgive your friend because you know that forgiveness makes you a calmer person? What did you learn about true friendship? Would a true friend be unforgiving? How can you be a better friend in the future? And the oh-so-important question: How can you be a better friend to yourself as well?

We walk through many stages of our lives with our friends. Sometimes our friendships survive the transitions. Sometimes they don’t. Blame is useless. So is holding onto anger in the long run. They both prevent us from embracing the lessons. After we take the time to ask ourselves the tough questions, find our answers and learn our lessons–if we’re lucky– we’ll meet our long-lost friends again someday when we’re wiser, stronger, independent people, able to walk through a new stage in life, together.

In the meantime, focus on being the best friend you can be to the one person who is with you straight to the end, the one person who will never leave you … Y-O-U.

Written by Maria Pascucci.  Maria is the founder and president of <> and author of the award-winning book, Campus Calm University: The College Student’s 10-Step Blueprint to Stop Stressing & Create a Happy, Purposeful Life <>.

Advice from Mom Regarding College Anxiety

Posted September 15th, 2009 by collegemomindebt and filed in Anxiety, Parent to Parent

girl in collegeWhen my daughters call or Skype me to ask for advice on how to deal with anxiety in college (whether it be handling separation anxiety or overcoming test anxiety), the first thing I say is that it is possible to be calm even in a storm.  I remind them that it is normal to be somewhat stressed when they are away from home and to be anxious before exams, but that being overly anxious is not a necessary evil.

I ask them for the details of what is stressing them and often find that there are multiple issues going on all at once including homesickness, unresolved relationship issues, lack of sleep, unhealthy diet and a lack of normal routines.

I ask a series of questions such as do you have the comforter I made you?  Who can you talk to there about this?  What are you doing for exercise?  How much sleep are you getting?  Is there any opportunity to take a short nap?  How often, how much, when and what are you eating?

As I get responses, I say things like, Okay, wrap yourself up in the comforter so you can feel yourself hugged while we talk…  I think you should run that by your friend (or mentor) to get more feedback before you make a decision…  Make time to take a run at least three times a week, you know how you feel better when you are running regularly.  Find a church or small group that will help you stay on track with your faith…  I’m serious about getting at least 8 hours of sleep a day and getting into a regular schedule, you’ll be amazed how a lot of these issues will get better when you can simply tackle them with a clear and rested mind… Is there something you can take into the room when you take your test?  I know I always feel better when I have a fist full of sharpened pencils in my hand…  Stop eating all the sugar and caffeine, you know you feel better when you eat healthy…  Do the simple things like make your bed and empty the garbage can, you’ll find that you and your roommate are happier when you do… Rather than talk to one friend about another friend, have you tried talking directly to the one who is bothering  you?  It’s better to keep things simple and involve as few people as possible when you are having a disagreement.

While this may sound like a lot of nagging, it’s the basic stuff that my daughters want to hear from me.  And when the simple stuff is not enough, it’s my job to help refer them to other resources that can go deeper.  There are a lot of great resources available.  There are people on campus that can be sought out such as the residency advisor, school counselor, school chaplain or dean of students.  Plus there is a medical clinic on campus and free crisis phone lines.  There are also online resources such as with its 10 affirmations to calm college student stress.

And when these resources don’t go deep enough or feel confidential enough, there also is the Student Assistance Plan that provides confidential professional support by telephone 24/7.  This plan provides mental health, relationship, legal and financial counseling to my daughters for less cost than the medical plan I have for our dog.  It gives my daughters and me peace of mind to know that they are each equipped to respond to minor and major sources of stress even when far from home.  And when their stress is reduced, so is mine.  Funny how it works that way even when they’re not at home.

Another Mom Lets Go

Posted September 4th, 2009 by collegemomindebt and filed in Letting Go, Parent to Parent
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One mom, Kris Sieraki of Elkhart Indiana, shares her experience with helping her daughter transition from high school to college.

Stressed Out Students Need Solutions

Posted September 3rd, 2009 by Maria Pascucci and filed in College Grad to Student, Stress

Every day, in both my personal and professional life, I deal with stressed-out college students and the fallout from their over-managed, ultra-achieving, anxiety-ridden lives.

From a college senior: Worry over GPA has caused me to suffer stomach problems, headaches, insomnia and panic attacks requiring medication. I am afraid to complete this huge project worth 50 percent of my grade because I’m afraid it won’t be ‘good enough.’ Why? I have a 3.95 GPA and now I’m terrified of ‘blowing it.’ AHAHAH. How can I give this up & not let it rule my life?

A new survey released last month by mtvU and the Associated Press reveals that 85 percent of students reported feeling stressed on a daily basis.  Academic concerns like school work and grades topped the list of stressors beating out other stressors such as financial woes even in today’s economy. The 2,200 college students polled across 40 colleges and universities paint a grim picture.

As 1.6 million kids walk across the stage at graduation, one wonders what their most salient college memories will be. Falling in love? Discovering Plato? Tutoring low income kids?  According to a new study, it might just be that overwhelming stress is the most resonant memory. It shouldn’t be this way. While I’m grateful to mtvU and the Associated Press for raising awareness of student stress, it’s time we all focus on practical, positive solutions that today’s students crave. We can start by telling young people:

1. “Being perfect in college isn’t the gateway to success and happiness; learning and creating relationships are. Building networks and being excited about something does translate into jobs.”

Eight years ago, I graduated summa cum laude from college while completing a double major and a minor. My résumé was perfect, but I was a wreck. I battled anxiety, depression and insomnia because of the unrealistic expectations I’d placed on myself to be the best. Today, I’m the president of, a national organization that empowers students to prioritize their health before they graduate. Employers look for resilient, energetic, creative young employees; not one hiring manager cared about the summa cum laude notation on the top of my résumé.

2. “You are more than the measure of your GPA.”

Too many students measure their self-worth by their academic accomplishments. They’re terrified to take a chance on learning if it means earning a less-than-perfect grade in the process. That is a tragedy because it undermines the whole purpose for being in school in the first place.

Here’s what we all can do: Pull a young person aside today and tell her why you think she’s great just because she laughs at your jokes, smears ketchup on potato chips, peanut butter and jelly on waffles (thanks Dad!), or sings rather badly in the shower. In other words, tell someone why they’re special in any way that cannot be measured by a letter grade.

3. “Success starts with self-love.”

Our society sends some harmful messages about what it means to be successful. A few years ago, I remember reading about a powerful female executive featured in Glamour Magazine. She said, “The secret to my success is Starbucks coffee. I think if you’re willing to sacrifice some sleep, you can do anything you’ve always wanted, whether it’s writing a book or running a marathon.” There is nothing self-loving about not giving our bodies the rest they need.

55 percent of college students reported experiencing sleep troubles at least several days in the two week period in which they were polled, and 69 percent reported feeling tired or having little energy.

Some well-intentioned parents, policy makers and educators worry that if they tell high-achieving students that it’s okay to not stress over every single grade, test, paper and résumé builder, their students will turn into slackers and their grades will plummet. Rest assured, high-achieving students will still reach their potential. They will still be leaders. But even if a student’s GPA happens to drop one semester from a 4.0 to a 3.65 but he learns resilience in the process, that student gave himself a gift far more valuable than a measly fraction of a point could measure.

America needs a cultural shift both inside and outside of the classroom. As a friend wisely told me, “Accolades and A’s are not what life, ultimately, is about.”

~ Maria Pascucci is the founder and president of and author of the award-winning book, Campus Calm University: The College Student’s 10-Step Blueprint to Stop Stressing & Create a Happy, Purposeful Life

10 Affirmations to Calm College Student Stress

Posted August 28th, 2009 by Maria Pascucci and filed in College Grad to Student, Stress’s spotlights’ college stress awareness with ’10 Affirmations to Calm College Student Stress’.  Post this page of tips in your college room to help you stay focused on healthy ways to help relieve stress.  Follow the link at

Introducing Maria Pascucci

Posted August 20th, 2009 by Maria Pascucci and filed in College Grad to Student
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mariaMaria Pascucci is the founder and President of, and the author of the award-winning book, Campus Calm University: The College Student’s 10-step Blueprint to Stop Stressing & Create a Happy, Purposeful Life.   Earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and English with a concentration in Writing and Women’s Studies, Maria is a summa cum laude graduate of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.  Maria travels, speaking to college students as she helps to spread a dose of “campus calm” to over-stressed out students around the globe.

To learn more about Maria Pascucci, go to her website at

The Adventure of Teamwork

Posted July 29th, 2009 by missrunningstart and filed in Relationships, Student to Student
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Teamwork: Working with others to accomplish a task

Working as a team can help make a big project easier to complete, but it can also make the project more complicated.

Last spring quarter, in Sociology 110, I worked with close friends on a project that lasted all quarter. The only problem was that the group was too large (7 people). This meant that some people initially were given no meaningful work to do while others felt they were carrying the burden of the work.

Working as a team (even when you get to choose the team members) can be very difficult. Sometimes there are disagreements regarding who should lead the team. At other times there are miscommunications regarding how the work should be accomplished. And sometimes there is a team member who acts as though she/he doesn’t need to do any work, but can simply ride on the work of others.

Working with close friends can generate even more tension and unnecessary drama because social issues other than the project at hand can distract the group. Because of this, it can be better to choose acquaintances rather than close friends when assembling a team. Acquaintances are less likely to bring in superfluous issues to the team process.

Although working as a team can be very frustrating, it can also produce results that would never have been accomplished by one person. Greater variety of perspective and work approaches can produce a more creative result. Team members with special expertise such as graphic design, video production, songwriting, choreography, spreadsheet design, software development, object lesson and speech skills can add creative elements that would not be present without their involvement.

However, even when the result is not a better one, the process has merit as a learning experience because it simulates the teamwork that may be needed or expected by a future employer.

Personally, I have had very mixed experiences with teamwork. At times I’ve had to stand by in a presentation while some individuals took credit for work they didn’t do and at other times as with the sociology project, each member of the team was commended by faculty for work well done. So today, while I prefer to work solo, I can speak to how the team process has helped me grow as a student and individual

Financial Decisions We Have Made to Finance College

Posted July 23rd, 2009 by collegemomindebt and filed in Finances, Parent to Parent
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We did not save enough money to finance our daughters’ full college educations.  In fact, the amount we had in savings would only have gotten one of our daughters through a few months of school.

It wasn’t that we hadn’t tried to save the money.  It was just that life kept happening.  I got sick and had to make serious changes to get well again.  My husband grew tired of working for others and so we started our own business which took years to turn profitable.  We had a third child.  You know how it goes — mostly good stuff — but life interruptions, nonetheless.

So we had to make some tough decisions.

One set of decisions we made was to choose not to provide our daughters with cars to drive and not even to add them to our auto insurance so they could drive our car.  While our daughters often have reminded us that many of their friends had cars or were driving their parents cars from sophomore year of high school on, we reminded them that the thousands of dollars we saved and continue to save each year was going directly into their educations.  And those educations, in turn, would allow each of them to buy a much better car than we could have provided them at age 16.  We also reminded them that we were/are able to drive them wherever they need to go – not cool, but practical.

Another set of decisions was to help our daughters apply for multiple scholarships – help them complete the numerous forms, interviews and steps required.  Through this process we found that it was good to go after scholarships that were new.  Often the number of applicants for a new scholarship opportunity is not as great as for scholarships that have been around for a while.  Therefore, the chance of getting a new scholarship is considerably higher than for older scholarships.  We also found that going for scholarships that were only open to limited groups such as only open to members of a certain credit union or only open to residents of certain cities (such as Chamber of Commerce or Rotary sponsored scholarships) helped increase the chance of getting a scholarship.

Another decision we made was to get our taxes and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) done as early as possible each year.  This is a significant pain (did I say that?), I mean worthwhile effort.  Some years daughter number one and I would be on the phone and online in the FAFSA website at the same time so as to complete the form accurately and early.  I remember the trips to the filing cabinet to pull data and running back to the computer to enter data.  However, in the end it was worth it because completing the form proved that our income level was low enough each year to allow our daughters to receive some grants as well as low interest loans.

Finally, we made the decision to take out loans – some that our daughters will need to repay and others (more) that we as parents are repaying.  While we tried as much as possible to avoid debt, we have chosen to believe that educational loans are good debt because they will help each of our daughters become independent and should result in an increase in earning power for each of our daughters.

While “collegemomindebt” may not be one of my most enjoyable roles, it is one I embrace because I am looking for the long term reward, not the short term financial situation.