College Transition: How to Help Eliminate Anxiousness
To say incoming freshman will be experiencing stress in a few months as they head off to college is an understatement. Most young adults have not been in a formal classroom for almost 1 ½ years. In addition, they are just now reinserting themselves into social interactions. In a few short weeks, their entire lives are going to be thrown into a new “transition” so how can we, as parents, help prepare them.
1. Talk About the Elephant in the Room
With a counseling background, I believe wholeheartedly in the power of open communication. Many kids are experiencing more stress than ever in their lifetime, not only due to the normal adolescent issues but the repercussions of a pandemic. Ask your child, “Tell me what is concerning you about college?”, “What can I do to help?”, and “I know this is an overwhelming time for you but I’m here to do whatever you need so please let me be your advocate.” It is normal to be uneasy about a transition, but this group of kids are in a unique situation and need to know they are understood. Going to college will be the biggest change they have potentially ever experienced. Keep the lines of communication open.
2. Attend, if possible, IN-PERSON Class Registration and Orientation.
Many universities are having limited in-person summer orientation, but if your child is struggling, try to attend. If the colleges are saying they are full, call and ask to be placed on the waiting list or how you can be considered. Share that your young adult is struggling and that it would be extremely beneficial to their transition. This will resonate with the college admission department who normally puts on these events. Being able to attend in-person gives children another opportunity to gain their footing, meet new people, see and feel their surroundings and gain confidence. It is a very important part of the assimilation into college.
3. Have Them Connect with Their Roommates Now
If your child doesn’t know their new “best friends”, have them begin having conversations, Zoom calls, or maybe even meeting in-person to break the ice. Most incoming freshman will not know their roommates which can cause THE biggest stress of all. Living with someone you don’t know, but have been matched with, based on a few questions, is beyond nerve-racking, especially for introverts. Establishing any connection ahead of move-in will give them a level of comfort over the next few months before school begins.
4. Sign Them up for Freshman Camps!
I’m so passionate about this tip it’s hard for me to contain myself. I believe there is nothing more important than this tip. Freshman Camps were created to assimilate kids into the campus culture AND make them meet friends. But it’s so much more than that. This is where kids begin to find their home, often pushes them outside of their comfort zone, exhibits empathy for others because we’ve all witnessed those kids who didn’t want to participate and were left alone. It’s mandatory fun but also therapeutical. They get to see, through group team building, everyone feels as afraid and worried as they do. That they are not alone! It helps make the transition into their new lives their success.
5. Talk about Counseling & Keep a Close Eye on Them
Over the last few months, I can’t begin to share how many calls I’ve had from concerned parents about their children. Every young adult thinks they are the only ones struggling. But I share they are actually in the majority. I don’t know of one young adult who is soaring through this pandemic. But here is the reality, if your young adult expresses it’s too much, please find a mental health professional. I’m happy to recommend mental health professionals I refer to my families that I trust 1000%. College campuses have therapists as well, but they are overwhelmed with the demand. If you are in need of a counselor, Psychology Today is a good place to begin. I had a therapist friend of mine make a great recommendation. Instead of finding a therapist near home for a child, find one near the college they will be attending. Many universities also have a list of ones they recommend.
During transitions, anyway, a person can break up these big events into bite-size experiences, the less overwhelming it makes a person, hence feeling they have some control over the unknown. Transitions are a normal part of life with many more to come. College should be the best years of a young adult’s life, but “good stress” still equals “stress”.
Lastly, it’s never too late to engage in career exploration if a child doesn’t know what they are doing with their lives. It’s my passion and commitment to the families I’m honored to get to work with. My prayer for all of the kids heading off to college in a few weeks is that they find their people, their footing, and their purpose. I hope they all Proceed with Confidence into adulthood!