Around 84 percent of college students feel overwhelmed and almost half of all college students will experience overwhelming anxiety during the school year [American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment, 2009].
If you are a parent of a college student, especially if he or she is just starting college, you might worry not only about academics but about your child’s well being. When your child heads out the door and enters the college life, you no longer have control over the information you receive – about academics and health issues. If you child has gone away to college, you have even less control. When you call to check, some might simply say, “I am fine,” or “Everything is going ok,” trying to hide their fears not only from you but from themselves.
The following are five ways you can help your college student manage stress:
Remind your child about times he or she has handled stressful situations in the past. While the stress of college might be different or more intense, chances are your child has handled stressful situations in the past. What strategies did he use to get through final exams, the college search, family problems, financial concerns? Remind him or her to use those same strategies now.
Be there to listen. Sometimes listening, without jumping in with a solution is hard. But sometimes our children need a way to talk through their problems. Your child might need to know that someone is there to listen while he vents. Allow your college student to vent and only provide advice when asked.
Try to isolate the problem. Your child might have called complaining about his roommate, the amount of work he needs to do, the long walk to classes, the cafeteria food, the lack of privacy and any other concern. Below all the complaining there is the real problem. Listen and then work to isolate what is really the main problem. Solving that might help all the others go away.
If your child has a history of anxiety or the feelings of overwhelm aren’t going away, talk to him or her about making an appointment with the counseling center. The counselors are used to working with students who are having a difficult time adjusting to college life and can work with him during regular sessions and there are usually medical professionals who can prescribe medication if needed.
Remind your child to take care of physical needs. College students are notorious for not taking care of their physical needs, which can worsen symptoms of anxiety. Getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising are all important aspects of managing stress.
Remember that some anxiety is normal. College is a new experience. It comes not only with new academic challenges but with learning to live independently. They might worry about passing their classes, finding friends and keeping up with their own physical needs. As parents, we want to quickly solve any problem our child has and when you receive a call with your child sounding panicked, your fist instinct might be to get in the car and bring him home. Give your student some time to get adjusted to college life first instead.
For more information on anxiety in college:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.