It’s Stress Awareness Month. Since 1992, healthcare professionals have used this period to increase public knowledge about the causes and cures of stress. This is a modern epidemic that affects people of all ages, including college students.
Anxiety and depression rates are on the rise among this demographic. Three out of four college students report at least one stressful life event within the past year, according to a study published in the Medical Journal Depression and Anxiety last year. One out of five reported experiencing more than five stressful life events within that same time frame.
Another national survey found that students who were emotionally unprepared for college were more likely to report poor academic performance and negative college experiences.
There are steps parents can take to alleviate this, according to the authors of a new book titled, How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There). Co-authored by education consultant Andrea Malkin Brenner and Director of the American University’s Project on Civil Discourse Lara Schwartz, the book offers a guide to high school students on how to make the most of summer following high school graduation.
As written in The Conversation, here are five suggestions on how parents can work with their children to ease the transition:
1. Encourage seeking help from support systems
Each university has a dedicated support ecosystem. From counseling to wellness centres and academic support, there are plenty of people and programmes to assist first-years in need. Instead of depicting college as their child’s first stint at independent living, parents should encourage their loved one to research the campus support system before they arrive at college.
2. Develop empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Regardless of whether the parents attended college or not, the authors suggest that a way for them to bond with their child on the momentous occasion of them leaving home is to discuss the first time they left home themselves and unravel challenges they faced.
3. Talk expectations
Avoid conflicts by setting expectations. This includes talking about moving-in day, academic reports, personal safety, religious observance, etc.
“Having explicit conversations with supporting adults will help prepare first-year students to more confidently face the challenges they encounter on their own without parental support (such as the first time a student experiences an illness or injury in college) and reduce the chance of family conflicts that arise from differing expectations,” Lara Scwartz wrote for The Conversation.
4. Tougher academic standards
Deadlines. Assignments. Independent study. Plagiarism. These are some of the top areas parents should emphasise when discussing college-level academic expectations.
“Anticipating these higher standards can save students the time and trouble of finding out these things the hard way after the fact,” Schwartz wrote.
5. Forgive the flaws
Last but not least, make it clear that it’s normal to make mistakes as a rookie. What matters is not that they failed a class or overslept or lost something important. What matters is the resilience they demonstrate in order to rectify it.
Schwartz wrote: “It is the resilience that students show – that is, the ability to adjust to circumstances in the face of adversity and own up to their mistakes – that is a hallmark of being a responsible adult.”