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6 Things for Parents To Remember This Summer When Stress is High - How to help your student be confident, prepared, and campus-ready
It is almost that time and you can cut the emotions in your house with a knife. The sooner campus drop-off is, the more emotional chaos your entire family feels - excitement one minute, fear the next; yelling battles and tears along with high levels of anticipation. The whole family feels the stress of this highly planned-for life transition.
While some students seem ready to exercise that long sought independence, others are experiencing a major emotional imbalance this summer with feeling unsure and scared, and sensing a lack confidence about leaving home. This space in-between high school and college is filled with uncertainty, and it is a magnet for new emotions. It is not easy balancing emotions of nostalgia, eagerness, and excitement, along with the angst, anger, sadness, and apprehension of leaving the family for college.
Although every student responds differently to transitioning from high school to college, the fact remains that all kinds of emotions will be floating in your household the summer. How will you and your family keep the peace these next few weeks?
These 6 non-practical yet solid true- to- life reminders will help you and your student navigate life these next few weeks so everyone can remain calm and carry on.
1. Age is not a factor is how much your student needs you. Support is just that…support. Although this support looks different for each family, be mindful that eighteen-year-olds are just beginning to figure out how they fit into this world. Change is scary. Self-doubt and insecurities are heightened. Anxiety and stress can be the norm while moving to a different life placement. Eighteen-year-olds need you now more than ever.
2. Define success with your student before he or she leaves home. Success in high school is not always a determinant of success in college. This can be brought up in a discussion about what success looks and feels like. Is success in your student’s eyes maintaining a GPA of 3.9? Is it graduating with honors? Is success about a happy balance in life for the next four years? Have your student create a visual of what success looks like. This will serve the same purpose as a life roadmap.
3. Preparing for campus drop-off this summer can become more about comforters and bed toppers than togetherness. Make your focus on connecting and being-together instead of decorating the dorm because this is when important and meaningful conversations occur. Outfitting your student with the modern-day conveniences of college life is simply that parental instinct to have your student feel at home away from home. It eases your anxiety to know they will be comfortable on campus. Take a minute to acknowledge that this is your way of making your student feel loved. Combine your energies and make the experience of college shopping mean more than the things.
4. Help your student create a stress management plan now, so that the midnight panic-stricken phone calls are at a minimum. Parents are not experts in stress management; however, it is crucial to talk with your student this summer about what real stress looks like and feels like. At this point in life, for most students, stress has not amplified like it has the propensity of doing in college. Everyone’s stress is different. Some students have full blown anxiety and panic attacks, some work through stress with exercise and proper wellness practices. Others take substances to numb tough feelings. Every student should know healthy, effective, and applicable stress management techniques before they arrive on campus. In addition, discuss campus resources with your students and be aware that outside virtual services are available specifically for college students.
5. Slow down and have fun. With anxiety and depression being the number one and two mental health issues for which college students seek help, we can deduce that pressures, demands, and how well students manage stress all contribute to mental and emotional well-being. Students forget to have fun. Every minute of every day thoughts are “what do I have to do now?”. Laughter is medicine and being social releases endorphins, which in turn releases stress and muscle tension. Allow yourself to just BE – to do nothing. This is crucial for students to maintain a healthy life balance while on campus.
6. Every day, prioritize these 4 main wellness practices: sleep, nutrition, body movement, and stress management. There is no “back burner” when it comes to your overall health. Attending to your overall well-being is as important, if not more, than academics. While neither of these is more important than the other, just being aware and consistently practicing healthy habits will positively impact and sustain your mental, physical, and emotional states. All four of these wellness components hinge upon the other and will make the difference between thriving and surviving in college.
Anxiety, Depression Reached Record Levels among College Students Last Fall (umich.edu)
Laughter releases 'feel good hormones' to promote social bonding (medicalnewstoday.com)
Development Milestones for your 18-Year-Old Child (verywellfamily.com)
Are You Emotionally Prepared for College Drop-Off? | Collegiate Parent