Adding Mental Health to your College Student’s Checklist

photo-1484480974693-6ca0a78fb36bIt’s the summer between high school graduation and freshman year in college and your young adult has passed the test.  They have done everything required to earn their high school diploma.  They are headed to college and the mad dash begins to get X-Long Twin sheet, towels, toiletries, books, supplies, a backpack and clothes, but what about the non-tangible items?  Mental health is often the forgotten item on the list.

Does your young adult know how to navigate their feelings, emotions and stressors and are you able to identify warning signs?

You may feel as though you know your child better than anyone and will instantly know whether they are in distress, but the truth is, this transition is new for the both of you.  Even if you have an older child that has already left for college, it is important to remember that everyone is different and navigating the transition and challenges during this period of life are different for everyone; hence different approaches may be appropriate.

Discussion Topics

It is important to talk to your young adult about responsibilities related to sex, drugs, friendships, peer pressure and academics.  College years are a time of exploration and discovery.  It is normal for your young adult to be excited for their new freedoms; however it is important for them to understand their choices, the impact of their decisions and how they can be affected emotionally and mentally.

Signs to look for

Be aware!  The little things can speak volumes when it comes to mental health.  For example, look for changes in eating habits, changes in grades, or negative exchanges with roommates.  Does your young adult seem to spend too much or too little time socializing?  Ask about courses, grades, topics in class.  Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions that force your student to elaborate.  Very little is gained from asking questions that result in “yes” or “no” responses.  Your teen is exploring autonomy and doing so is necessary for personal development, but be mindful to question and not ignore any information that makes you feel uneasy.

According to ChildMind.org, Dr. Juliann Garey cautions parents about trying to fix everything for their teen.  The first response to any warning signs, should be to ‘validate their feelings, not to solve their problems’.  Guide your teen towards seeking help with your support.  Encourage your young adult to know the location of the on-campus counseling center.  Seeking help, is a life-skill that will prove beneficial beyond their college years.

It’s easy to get caught-up in the to-do lists for going away to college, but remember that what we see is only part of the story, so it is important to equip your student with the tools needed to become self-aware and personal alarms, without hesitation, fear or shame.

By: Chaina Porter, MHC Intern

 

 

Resources:

Garey, J. (n.d.). Preparing for College Emotionally, Not Just Academically. Retrieved from Child Mind: https://childmind.org/article/preparing-for-college-emotionally-not-just-academically/