The summer college preparation check list is all marked. Sheets, towels, and shower caddies are in the process of getting packed. Meal plans have been decided. Orientation has been attended. And, class schedules are in place. Parents have just a few weeks to finish setting up their freshman not only for comfort, but for individual success.
Whether it is your first or last child to send to college, the thought has crossed your mind at least once, “if my child is happy at school, then I’m happy.” This is why so much energy is spent on preparing and purchasing things- things that will make your student feel at home as they navigate their new life.
There is perhaps one thing that still needs attention that parents cannot buy, but it will provide comfort and secure individual success more than anything you have checked off your list thus far.
Creating a self-care routine and healthy habits will build the foundation for individual success in college both now and later. There are many components to self- care.
Emotional health, physical health, spiritual health, and mental health are all important for living a balanced and productive life while away from home. Learning to take control of and nurture all of the components can be overwhelming. Up to this point in time, most kids have not had be the executor of their own lives. Parents, teachers, and mentors have helped make decisions about time management, sleep, diet and nutrition, social and peer pressures and academics. Successfully caring for yourself is the greatest personal insurance for both a successful transition from high school and for future life adjustments.
Mental health is potentially one of the most concerning aspect of sending your child to college. The latest statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health state that approximately 31.9% of teens have diagnosed anxiety and seemingly even more have been diagnosed with depression. So parents are paying attention.
In order for college freshmen to adjust to living alone, making independent decisions, and learning resiliency in life, they will need to prioritize and enforce a self-care ritual with a focus on emotional and mental wellness. This involves first of all, mentally creating a grounded foundation in knowing who they are as a person and what they value in life. This is also called having a “core sense of self”. It is knowing what drives you, what bring you joy, what you will and won’t tolerate or compromise and essentially what allows you to walk each day with your head held high and your eyes and mind set on yourself and the world around you.
Secondly, in college terms “caring for yourself” translates to tending to sleep, exercise, diet, and how best to spend your time. These are all common sense approaches to insuring optimal wellness. Five years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics were beginning to notice signs of social media interference with child and teen development. In October 2013 the AAP reported that teenagers were
spending more than eleven hours on social media. Naturally this effects sleep and The National Sleep Foundation agrees this is a problem with reports of only 15% of teenagers sleeping over eight hours on school nights. This is evidence that not all teens know how to self-regulate by the time they leave for fall semester.
The importance of attending to self-care is one of the things parents can still discuss in the next few weeks. Highlight the mind- body-stress connection so as to prevent poor self-care habits that can contribute to stress and anxiety.
Managing stress is managing life. This is a skill that has to be learned quickly upon entering college if not before. We are not born with this skill set many have not been taught how to self-regulate emotions that register as worry and anxiety. Sure, the easy skills like laundry, money management and time management are important, but most crucial is learning how to recognize three key components of stress: What things trigger feelings of stress (thoughts, events, people, situations, lack of sleep)? How does stress register in your body and mind (physical, overthinking, isolating from friends, moods, overeating)? What methods of stress relief and management will you practice?
Parents can play a key role in preparing their freshman for mental and emotional health in the next thirty days. Prompt discussions. Teach awareness of how stress can show up in the body. Role play how to manage bothersome symptoms.
Use these 8 guidelines to secure a firm mental health and wellness foundation before campus drop off.
1. Talk about time wasters (social media, video games). 2. Talk about sleep and nutrition deficiencies. 3. Discuss planning ahead and organizing. 4. Roleplay peer pressures situations. This includes how to meet new people. 5. Highlight the importance of being involved. 6. Set into place ways to decompress. 7. Decide if you best study in groups or alone. 8. Secure professional help if needed.