Helping Your Teen Navigate the First Year of College

You have walked alongside your teen for so many important life events. Now the day has arrived to embark on the first year of college. You may be filled with many mixed emotions, and you’re likely wondering, “how can I offer the right support this year?”

Talk About It: Before your teen goes to college, allow for open communication and connection. Hear your teen’s expectations for the first year. If your teen is going to live at school, whether near or far, find out how much contact they’d like to have with the family.  How often will they visit?  How often would they like to touch base with you by phone and text?  Texting may be less intrusive and more comfortable for quick check-ins, with phone calls once or twice a week for longer conversations.  Another question to discuss: How involved will you be with supporting your teen’s academic progress? Communicating about these issues ahead of time can clarify everyone’s expectations and decrease the chances for miscommunication.

Supporting Your Teen: There are several ways to do this. One is simple verbal reassurance. Others are action oriented–like attending Parent Orientation or the Parent Weekend. This is a great chance to get more familiar with your teen’s school and the resources available on campus.

Be Aware of How Your Teen Is Adjusting: College can be an exciting time of developing identity, thoughts, opinions, relationships, skills, goals and dreams. Your teen will be learning greater independence and making many choices autonomously.  The first year can be an amazing growth experience. As thrilling as they may be, all these changes can also be stressful. For some college students, it is their first time away from home. Students may confront social, academic, and emotional issues that they’ve never had to deal with before. Be sure to occasionally ask questions that can help you assess your teen’s state of mind.

According to the American College Health Association, about 15% of college students have been diagnosed with depression. According to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, about one in ten college students seek treatment from campus counseling centers. If you notice your teen frequently feeling overwhelmed, sleeping all day, isolating from peers, having difficulties concentrating, feeling irritable, sad, or hopeless almost every day, encourage them to seek help. Counseling services are available on most college campuses and are usually free to all enrolled students.

Your Changing Relationship: Your relationship with your teen is evolving. To help support development, allow your teen to practice independence and learn to connect with each other in a new way.  There will be times your teen still needs your support.  Learn to offer space at times and be there with support when needed.

Managing the Empty Nest: Now that your teen is spending more time outside of the home, it may be time for you to rediscover hobbies, interests and reconnect with yourself and significant others or friends. Enjoy!

PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this web site with your psychotherapist or physician.

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