Helping children adjust to college

Posted at 9:50 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 21:50:34-04

For many young people, college is the first time they’re really away from home. It can be an exciting time, but there are also a variety of stressors that can affect the experience.

Dr. Meena Vimalananda, medical director of child and adolescent services at Sheppard Pratt Health System, said that college is an unknown world with unknown people and there are certain pressures that come with it.

“People are going to judge one another, it’s the nature of the beast,” she said. “It’s just what’s expected.”

But, the judgment is an added burden for students trying to adjust to a new world of academics, independence and social interactions.

There is an assumption that after graduation, young people are ready to move away to college. Dr. Vimalananda said that’s not always the case. She said it’s important for parents not to assume that their children are ready for college. She recommends that parents listen to their children and let them take the initiative in the college process.

“Some kids don’t feel ready to go away, but they’re afraid to tell their parents,” she said. “They don’t want to be different from their friends.”

Dr. Vimalananda said that for some students, it makes sense to stay at home for a year and attend community college so that the student can adjust to academic demands of college.

To ease the transition to independence and adulthood, Dr. Vimalananda said communication is key. She recommends that parents make a communication plan before their child heads to college. Designate times when you can call your child and check in with how they’re doing.

“Keep in touch without micro-managing,” she said.

She encourages parents to keep that conversation going.

  • Talk often
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Don’t take it personally when your child pushes back
  • Connect them support systems when they are at school

For many students, college can be overwhelming. Dr. Vimalananda said it's important to listen for signs of stress. 

"Listen, and listen for any change from what you know," she said.

She said for parents that have an open dialog with their children, changes should be obvious and can be addressed.

"If they've been a habit a listening, I think they will notice if their child is changing," Vimalananda said.

In the end, the best advice Dr. Vimalananda can give for the college transition is communication and face to face visits. Let the child take initiative, but make sure there's a plan to keep parents involved and informed. 

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