These three tips can send your kids off to college on the right foot.
In another few weeks, many teens will be getting ready to head off to college for the first time. With this milestone event comes a lot of excitement, but also a lot of nail-biting and worry, especially for parents. How will they function away from home? Will they be able to balance the workload? Can I do anything to help ensure their success? These are some of the common concerns parents discuss with me, so allow me to set your mind at ease about a few of them:
Be open and honest
About everything! Especially about the fact that you’re a little nervous about them going off on their own. Don’t feel like you have to put on a brave face – be authentic. It’s okay for them to see that you are human and have emotions. Kids find it very comforting when they can see their parents a little stressed out, because it gives them permission to have those emotions themselves.
Reassure them of your support
This transition into adulthood means more independence, growth and confidence – but that often occurs in tandem with significant change and intense challenges to their mental and emotional health.
Balancing school, work and social life isn’t always easy. While we want them to figure out problems on their own, it’s also important to have a strategy in place for when times get tough so that normal challenges don’t develop into something more severe, like anxiety or depression – a very real problem on campuses today.
It takes time for new support systems to develop as they make friends, but in the meantime, make sure they know how to contact the campus counseling office for those times when they can’t talk to you and one of their friends is not around. And – one of the good things about social media and technology -- remind them that you’re only a text or phone call away…
Stress safety first
Almost every kid is going to engage in behaviors we’d rather they not. Telling them not to is often unrealistic and futile in the face of intense peer pressure while away from home and parental supervision. Instead, a good approach when dealing with matters such as substance use and sex is to keep the conversation centered on their health and safety.
Tell them that if they find themselves in trouble, or a friend is in trouble, to know who to call. Don’t get into a car with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs. Don’t let anyone do something to you that you are not comfortable with, etc. It’s their body, and it’s their job to take care of it. As a pediatrician, I have these tough conversations with my teen patients all the time, and they actually listen, especially when the message is one of wellbeing rather than judgment.