Wow! Time sure does fly! One day your bringing your little one home from the hospital and the next they are getting ready to leave the nest and head off to college. There are so many new experiences that your teen will face and you hope that you have prepared them for all of life's many challenges. Start getting your teens ready now. There's no better time. Here are some tips on how to prepare your teen to make this transition successful.
- Self-care is important. Self-care encompasses many things from sleep, to eating, to exercise, and self-control. Helping your teen develop healthy routines now before they head off is key. Start talking to your teen about their quality of life and how to balance the many demands they’ll be faced with. Don't avoid dealing with any moodiness or irritability you are noticing now. Address it head on. Help them figure out better ways to manage this now before they are left to their own devices or what their new peers may be doing. The more opportunity they have to practice healthy ways to cope and manage emotions, the more likely they will be to continue to manage things in this way when they are on their own.
- Foster responsibility and independence.How will your teen function once there is no one around constantly making sure everything is okay? Will they be able to get to class on time, keep on top of demands of studying and homework, etc.? Start now! When you notice that you are constantly reminding and fixing things, work with your teen to help them take charge. Start slow and shape the behavior they need to be successful. Let them learn from mistakes now while they still have you close. Offer guidance with task management, conflict resolution, and budgeting. Managing these tasks already isn’t easy, so imagine how hard it’ll be once you are living with unfamiliar peers that are not concerned about you or your needs instead of family members that love and care about you?
- Get involved and help your teen feel familiar with resources at college. Before your teen heads off, visit the school and community they will be living in together. Get familiar with the surroundings. Figure out what your school's counseling center has to offer, as well as the many resources for new college freshmen. Find out what resources are in the community that your teen could benefit from. Make sure that your teen has familiarity with the resources they may need to stay successful. Being away from home can be difficult, and stress, worry, anxiety, and depression are so common in teens during this monumental first year at school. Make sure they have an idea of where to seek help when difficulties hit and you are not readily available.
- What do I do if my teen is not ready for college? If your teen is struggling with many of the things noted above that need to start happening for them to be successful in college, it might be time to consider an alternative plan. Talk to your teen about your concerns and find out how they feel as well. Sometimes it's helpful to take a year off or consider a college closer to home that will allow your teen to stay home for continued support during the year. Community colleges are a great option as well and can make for an easier transition from high school. Sometimes it is important to take a step back and evaluate what your teen’s goals are and then make a plan that fits them where they are.
There are so many things to watch for and prepare for as a parent. No matter how old your child gets your work is never done. If you feel that you need some other viewpoints or some extra support, reach out and schedule an appointment. All of our therapists at AFBHS would love to support you and your teen in their journey of launching into a world where they can be successfully independent. Good luck!