A recent article was published by CNN titled “How to help struggling college freshman boys who hide failure, according to an expert.” In this writing piece, the author explains how common it is for young men to go off to college with their future looking bright. They might join a fraternity, thrive socially, or say they are doing well in their classes, even though their reality may be much bleaker. Many external factors contribute to how well a student acclimates to life on their own, outside of their parents’ house. With the added pressures of college such as managing individual responsibilities, navigating peer pressure to drink or smoke, choosing when to attend classes, or participating in coursework altogether- it is very common for college students to struggle with mental health.
When you send your child off to their first year of college, they experience an entirely different world of freedom and individuality. Most suffer from anxiety, depression, and loneliness that are associated with “fomo” (fear of missing out) from opportunities, social isolation, and other academic pressures. Self-advocacy and taking responsibility for personal actions becomes a huge lesson learned in this timeframe as well. For many, if not all students, this is a constant exercise in self-discipline, willingness, motivation, and perseverance. With the endless pressures on your college-aged child, here we offer some ways you can help support from afar.
At first, it may be difficult to try and understand what it’s like to be a college freshman experiencing social pressures. Many of us were in college once, or remember what it was like to be pressured into different young adult experiences. The first way to support your struggling college kid would be to have an open conversation about these pressures before your child heads off to college. You can also introduce the conversation when it seems that these pressures are causing distress to your child to perform or act a certain way around others.
Encourage your child to engage in the social activities that are offered through campus life. You can help your child to find involvements that can help them make connections throughout campus as well. When it comes to the social pressure of substances, promote harm reduction instead of pressuring abstinence. Suggest ways that they can flee from a social environment when they may be uncomfortable instead of them feeling pressured to engage in an unsafe situation. Your student must be aware they can use you as a resource when stressed out or need to seek advice. The majority of college students do not have a trustworthy or nonjudgemental source to ask important questions. By being this resource for them, you are opening up a world of understanding and unconditional love.
When you are open and honest with your child about mental health, they will feel more comfortable holding authentic conversations about mental health with others. Nearly everyone struggles in some way during the college/young adult transition. It is essential to make conversations about mental health less taboo and more normalized. You can also normalize seeking treatment for mental health conditions if your child is experiencing distressing or impairing symptoms. Nearly all colleges and universities offer therapy or treatment programs for students that need an ear to listen or new coping mechanisms to try. It is normal for college freshmen to want to make it seem like they have it all together, but normalizing discussions about mental health can motivate your child to seek help and support when they may need it most.
Compared to women, men tend to avoid asking for help even when they may need it most. There are a variety of on-campus resources that are available for students seeking any kind of help, especially for academics. College courses are not designed to be easy, and if anything, they are designed to challenge students. Parents must encourage their young adults to meet with academic advisors, professors, and maybe their residential assistant living on the same floor as them. Your child must take advantage of their campus resources to stay on the right track with their academics.
As your child is introduced to new coursework, it is common to struggle with exams and other assignments. Try to relay to your child that this is not failure. Struggle can turn into failure if it is not addressed. Most academic struggles can be fixed with a few meetings with a professor, and often students hesitate to take advantage of these meetings. Attending class is one of the most simple solutions when your kid is struggling.
As the college transition may be one of the most overwhelming and confusing experiences of your child’s life, encourage them to be patient and empower them to do whatever is best for their mental health. These years are essential for self-discovery and personal growth.
Young adulthood can be overwhelming as your young adult learns how to create a life for themself outside of the family home. There are many external factors that contribute to how well your child acclimates to life on their own, especially during college. When you send your child off to experience college, it is essential that you make time for authentic conversation about mental wellness. Many kids experience their first year at college with heavy social and academic pressures that may lead them to develop unhealthy habits. At SokyaHealth, we offer a unique, multidisciplinary, private psychiatric and mental health practice. Our team of professionals is equipped to provide compassionate mental health and holistic services to children, adolescents, and adults in California, Oregon, and Alaska regions. We offer convenient telemedicine appointments, anxiety treatment, depression treatment, and more. If you are interested in a consultation, please call us at 503-298-4592.