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Preparation Smoothes College Transition Time

by Deidre Ashley

August 23, 2017 | From Sound Mind | The Jackson Hole News & Guide

Each year, around this same time we hear the same phrase: “Where did the summer go?”

It’s already the time when many are starting to plan for back to school. For those who are transitioning from high school to college it can be a very exciting change, full of opportunity — as well as stress and challenge.

While a great deal of time is spent preparing for the social and academic transition, many times emotional health is overlooked. It’s highly likely that young adults will deal with mental health struggles at some point, either personally or through a friend or roommate.

As a parent, your relationship with your child is guaranteed to change. The increase in personal freedom for young adults can be exciting and stressful, and finding the balance between honoring independence and providing support can be a tough. While learning independence and life skills, young adults may not be confident in what they can and can’t handle and they’ll likely need support for issues that are bound to come up.

You should discuss what to expect with some of the changes and challenges. Many of these may be entirely new experiences for college freshmen, such as living with roommates, dealing with finances, household responsibilities and starting out new without old friends. Add this to discovering that college work is indeed more difficult than high school demands, and the change can quickly become overwhelming.

Most schools offer programs during orientation or during the freshman year to help students adjust to college life. Explore these with your student and get to know what is offered by way of support, both for social and mental health. Residential advisors, better known as RAs, can be the first to spot signs of struggle in students. Find out more about their training and who will be working with your child.

In addition, familiarize yourself and your student with the counseling services offered on campus. If your child has had prior struggles with mental illness or substance abuse, it’s even more important that you and your child know where to go for support. Knowing what resources are available prior to needing them can determine the difference between early intervention and a crisis.

While most of us would like to think our child will not experience a mental health issue, one in five young persons will deal with an issue at some point during adolescence.

If you and your child work together to be prepared to handle the transition, odds increase that the experience will be less stressful. 

Deidre Ashley is executive director of the Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center. She is a licensed clinical social worker and has a master’s degree in social work.