September 21, 2017 by Bethany Rundell and John Fernandez
New College Students: Alleviating the Anxiety (Video)
Going back to school can be a stressful time for students and their families. But what if your child is leaving home for college?
This presents a whole new level of anxiety: the unknown, being away from home for the first time, moving to a whole new city — the list goes on.
Nicole Rodriguez, a licensed mental health counselor with Baptist Health South Florida, offers advice for first-time college students and their parents.
Visiting the College
Ms. Rodriguez says the best way for students to reduce some of the anxiety of going to college is by visiting the school in advance. Such a visit — although customary — should be extensive, exposing the student to many of the unknown variables of the new environment and what to expect. It gives the student a chance to talk to other college students and hear first-hand about their experiences.
The best thing parents can do is talk to their child about going away to school, listen to them and learn about their plans, and then let them go and experience college life, she explains.
(Video: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Nicole Rodriguez, a licensed mental health counselor, on relieving college anxiety for both parents and students. Video by Steve Pipho.)
“Parents are surprised how much children actually listen to the advice that parents give,” said Ms. Rodriguez.
Parents can also take comfort in the fact that their child does have a plan and knows what they are doing, all of which will help alleviate the anxiety they may have as a parent, says Ms. Rodriguez.
Coping With the Stress of College
Being a new college student usually means independence. Conversely, if unprepared for the newfound independence, students can be left dealing with a lot of stress and won’t be well equipped to handle the pressure.
There are many things a new college student can do to help cope with the stress of being a new college student.
- Get regular sleep – 7 to 8 hours is widely recommended for adults.
- Designate a time for studying – Don’t “cram” for an exam; study as you go.
- Maintain a healthy diet – Eating the right foods will help you stay focused and promote healthy sleeping patterns.
- Don’t get too involved – It’s okay to be involved, but don’t try to get involved in too many campus activities and clubs, especially during the first couple of semesters. Allow time to adjust to the new environment.
- Do things you enjoy – Stay active in activities you enjoy. If you’re into exercising, then continue. If you enjoy reading, make time to do so. Doing so helps your body combat stress and allows you to stay focused and enjoy your time as a college student.
Parental Do’s and Don’ts
All parents want what the best for their child. Many times they intervene too much to make sure it happens, instead of letting them live and learn, Ms. Rodriguez says.
“What happens a lot in my experience of working with college students is that parents tend to become ‘helicopter’ parents,” she says.
Ms. Rodriguez says parents should give their child time to be college students. They should also fight the urge to call them everyday, and try waiting three to four days to pass between calls. This gives the son or daughter time to develop questions for mom or dad. It also gives the student the opportunity to contact the parent.
When you do talk, don’t just ask about their grades, find out how they are doing and if they are adjusting well to college life, Ms. Rodriguez says.
It is normal for your child to have some level of homesickness. If or when they feel homesick, discuss with him or her about coming back home for a weekend visit, she says. This will help calm some anxiety and give them comfort to know that you will always be there for them. Let them know that you can always go visit them on occasion.
Another ‘don’t’ is not to let your child take semesters off, unless it is absolutely necessary. This may lead to more homesickness in the future. Of course, discuss any and all trips with your child before making plans, Ms. Rodriguez adds. This will give them the feeling of being involved with the decision and reassure them of their independence.
Be Health Conscious
Don’t forget about your health. Almost, if not all, colleges and universities have a health clinic for the students for when an occasional sickness happens. Often, students forget to go see a doctor when they aren’t feeling well and wait until it’s too late, Ms. Rodriguez says.
If getting to a health clinic is difficult, Baptist Health South Florida offers Care On Demand for those students who remain in the state of Florida. Care On Demand is an app that conveniently allows you to see a doctor for minor illnesses and injuries via your smartphone or tablet, and the physician can prescribe medicines if needed or recommend someone if you need further evaluation.