Here at Alzein Pediatric Associates, we know that going away to college is a huge life change. While most kids are enthusiastic about this new phase, about 10% of freshmen can feel depressed when starting college. Helping your student get through this passage is an important job as a parent. Your loving support at this time can strengthen bonds of trust for decades to come. Keep these tips in mind as your student acclimates to this new environment:
• This too shall pass.
Reassure your student that it’s normal to be homesick, it’s normal to be anxious and that they will feel better soon. Encourage them to look to the very near future, when friends are established, classes are enjoyed and they’ve become accustomed to the food. • Urge them to get involved. Fast.
Remind your student of all the opportunities available on campus. There are clubs for every interest, social awareness groups, intramural teams, and much more. Creating a circle of new friends is vital to feeling “at home.” • Prompt them to get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation is linked to depression, so suggest your student sleep a solid solid 6-8 hours a day. One wonderful thing about college – nap time is now something to be indulged in and enjoyed! • Talk honestly about alcohol and drugs.
Using substances to ease the pain of missing home and family is never ever a good idea. Alcohol is a depressant, so even though your student thinks they are having “fun”, they’ll feel much worse when they sober up. And at this age, their brain could be easily rewired by alcohol and drugs, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction.
• Encourage quick calls or texts to their support system
Mention often that you as parents, their trusted siblings, aunts and uncles are all on their team. Cell phones are a wonderful way to make a 3-minute call between classes, or send a quick text. These “just touching base” communications can make your student feel less isolated and more comfortable knowing they may be “out of sight” but they are not “out of mind”. • Know the warning signs
Understand that your child needs you now – to talk, to encourage and to cheer them on. Even if you are annoyed with their hesitancy, avoid “just deal with it” attitudes and don’t shame them for their sensitivity to this new situation.
If your student is making frequent and lengthy sobbing or angry phone calls, can’t sleep or eat, seems to be partying irresponsibly, feels overwhelmed, or comes home every weekend, it’s time to seek help. Nearly all colleges have a counseling center, paid for within tuition and fees. At your first twinge of discomfort about your student’s state of emotion or mind, tell your student to reach out and get help. Counselors can help ease the transition with simple techniques – or can identify a potentially serious problem.
Alzein Pediatric Associates knows this life change is huge for parents as well. Revitalize your own friendships, reconnect with your spouse and enjoy more one-on-one time with children who are still at home – and you’ll feel better soon too! Need a complete physical and vaccination updates before your student leaves for college? Make an appointment by calling Alzein Pediatric Associates at 708-424-7600 today!