Most teenagers tend to think they’re all grown up before they even graduate high school, but going to college and living on their own for the first time can be a jolting experience. For all but the most self-sufficient students, a flood of new responsibilities can drown young adults in anxiety—and often, the stress doesn’t let up once students get the hang of being independent. That’s why parents need to be vigilant about monitoring their children’s mental health in those crucial first months of college, and stay vigilant in the years afterward. Below are some tips to keep parents informed while also respecting your child’s independence.
Listen to what your child says—and doesn’t say
Most college students are overwhelmed, but it’s important to discern normal stress from a mental health crisis in the making. Whether you schedule weekly phone calls or text throughout the day like always, distance can make detecting subtext difficult. Is your child struggling in one class or all of them? Does your child mention friends or social activities? Your child might not want to admit the depth of their stress so be vigilant for clues between the lines.
Encourage your child, educate yourself
Even if your child has no pre-existing mental health diagnoses, educate yourself on anxiety disorders to increase your ability to discern between complaints and legitimate concerns. And while lending a non-judgmental ear is vital to keeping lines of communication open, refrain from trying to “fix” everything for your child. However, it doesn’t hurt to encourage participation in extracurricular activities. In addition to relieving stress, organized socializing can help your child build self-esteem and make new friends, creating a home-away-from-home support system.
Explore opportunities for help
Research mental health services offered on campus and within the local community so you’re prepared if your child needs to access them. Inquire about
- Individual or group counseling
- On-call counseling (whether it’s offered 24 hours a day, and what the process is for handling after-hours crises)
- Services specific to anxiety disorders such as support groups
- Relaxation and stress-management resources (such as yoga or meditation classes)
- Insurance matters (such as whether mental health centers take private insurance, offer student insurance, or provide free or low-cost services)
This research can even begin long before your child is done unpacking their dorm room—college tours are an ideal time to ask about mental health resources.
Share, but be patient
If you’d rather not wait until it’s needed, share your mental health services research with your child—but don’t push. Having the information available is helpful. Prying into your child’s life to ensure they use it is not. Even if you know your child is nearing a crisis, making the decision to seek treatment on their own is best. After all, admitting something is wrong and getting help is one of the hallmarks of a self-sufficient adult.
We can help
Anxiety disorder is a treatable condition, and at Alvarado Parkway Institute in San Diego, we treat all kinds of anxiety disorders. We will tailor a treatment program specifically to help your child manage their condition so they can enjoy their college years to the fullest. For more information on our services or to schedule a consultation, fill out the contact form on our website or give us a call today. Our crisis line is available 24 hours a day: 619-485-1432.