It is almost here: The day your little child is suddenly a not so little freshman in college. This is a critical time in a young adult’s life. Often, it is the first time they will live away from home, which means extensive freedom and big responsibilities. This is not only an unknown journey for young adults, but for their parents as well.
It can be an extremely difficult adjustment to suddenly have to love and care about your child’s well being from a distance. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression may be triggered, and co-dependency issues may also arise. Here are a few key tips to facilitate the transition from raising a child to guiding a young adult:
Communicate and listen. One of the greatest things about the 21st century is the ample amount of constant connectivity. Even if your child is half a world away, computer and phones can make it feel like they are right next to you. Keep the communication lines flexible; hour-long conversations every single day are not expected. In between the longer calls, short follow-ups should suffice. Make sure to listen to what they are telling you. You know your child better than anyone and can quickly tell if they seem overcome by stress, anxiety or depression.
Talk about your feelings. Many if not most parents understand the struggle of college separation. Anxious thoughts, loneliness and worry are normal and you can find comfort in confiding in others who know what you are going through. This is also an opportunity to analyze if these thoughts and feelings are in fact standard parental fears or a sign of a more serious emotional and mental health issue that needs to be addressed.
Take time for yourself. For roughly 18 years you’ve had to extensively care for your child’s needs, and often times your own needs take a back seat. Although your life may seem a little less exciting, this is actually the perfect time to reintroduce self-love into your routine. Practicing a hobby or mastering a new skill may be the enjoyable distraction you need. More time to focus on yourself gives you the chance to be mindful of your emotions and current situation. Occasionally this newly found freedom from the constant care of others allows women to realize they have their own emotional breakage that needs to be mended.
Be there. At this moment in your child’s life, they are in between being a fully functional adult and an unsure teenager. Although they are begging for freedom, they still need a shoulder to cry on and a parent to guide them. College is stressful and traumatic events may arise no matter how much we try to prevent them. It is okay to step in and intervene if you notice any changes in mood or performance and suspect there might be something more serious going on. Many mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder are not diagnosed until the early 20’s, and seeking treatment from private rehabilitation centers can allow better management of these illnesses.