As the end of summer approaches, many families have sent their children off to college.
As a parent or caregiver, the thought of sending a child to college may be the start of an adventure. To others, it can be overwhelming. You may question how your child will manage laundry, eating well, cleaning up after themselves and finding their way around. You may also wonder how your home life will change in their absence and how they will adjust to a new environment with new responsibilities.
This transition will likely be stressful for your teenager, too, even if they are attending school close to home and are not moving away. For those who are leaving, this transition may be the first time they live away from home. They may be worried about leaving behind household responsibilities, childhood friends, and the comforts of home.
Some common signs of stress may include:
- Tension and irritability
- Fear and anxiety
- Feeling numb
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Loss of appetite
- Sadness and other symptoms of depression
These reactions are normal, but as drop-off day and the start of class approache, managing this stress to ensure the best possible transition for all of you is crucial. If you or your child is experiencing any of these symptoms or others associated with stress, the Centers for Disease Control recommends using some of the following methods to cope:
Take care of yourself: Be sure to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and work to maintain a normal routine. This can be an opportunity to treat yourself – get a massage, try meditation, or something else that relaxes you.
Stay active: Try yoga, go for a bike ride, or even take the dog on a walk —these can be positive ways to cope with stress.
Connect socially: Spend time with your teenager, whether that means dorm shopping together, spending time as a family, or going to the movies. Doing this together may make the transition easier for both of you.
Find support: Talk to your partner, a family member, friend, counselor, doctor, or religious figure about how you feel. Having someone listen to you may lighten the burden.
If your teenage son or daughter shares with you that they are feeling stressed as they prepare to leave, listen with a sympathetic ear, suggest spending time together, and ensure that they are taking care of themselves. Showing your child that you feel confident in their ability to be independent will be crucial to them as they prepare to leave.
More information about the college transition can be found here: http://coastalcenter.org/surviving-back-to-college-stress/.
Katie Panczner was an intern at Montefiore Health System’s Office of Community & Population Health.