From the NYU CHILD STUDY CENTER: ASK THE EXPERT
First Semester College Checkup—How is Your Child Adjusting?
The fall semester is well underway and I still remember vividly some of the issues that came up when my four older children began their first year at college. This phase in their lives meant new vistas for them and changes for us as parents.
Most young adults are able to make the transition to college life without major difficulties. Some, however, have to struggle to master the new challenges. Adjusting to an independent life, which entails managing their own schedules, their own finances, new living arrangements, and a new social life, can be overwhelming. Statistics tell the story. Recent surveys indicate that up to 50% of college students report that they have experienced episodes in which they have been unable to function. Some experience depression, with the rates of serious cases being as high as 15-20% at any one time. These are the students who may be more vulnerable for substance abuse, eating disorders, abusive relationships, and depression.
Here is some advice that we received as our oldest began her college career. Strike a healthy balance; encourage self-reliance but let your child know that you’re there if needed. Students may not report feelings of depression or anxiety to parents because they wish to show their independence, but parents should ask their teens to be open about their experiences and agree to keep them posted if they are not functioning well
Remember your child is dealing with a number of changes, but be sensitive to warning signs such as:
Sudden changes in behavior or mood. For example, fewer phone calls than usual or a sudden increase in phone calls, or other drastic change may indicate that he is experiencing some stress that he is reluctant to share.
Change in the quality of the information shared. She may be involved in a relationship that is openly or subtly abusive.
Poor grades and dropped courses. He may not be distracted from concentrating or feel unable to meet academic requirements.
Unusual requests for money. Although expenses may exceed original estimates, the need for more money may signal that she’s often going out or spending money on alcohol or drugs.
Remind your child that help is available if she’s feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious. Discuss the academic assistance or mental health resources that are available on campus.
College counseling center directors are concerned about increases in several areas: the number of entering students with already diagnosed problems, the number already on medications, and students with severe problems. This increased demand for services as well as the growing complexity of psychological problems has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in resources. The ratio of college mental health professionals to students has fallen in the last decade, and over 24 percent of students who seek services are seen for only one session.
This monthly column provides educators, parents and families with important information about child and adolescent mental health issues. Please submit questions for ASK THE EXPERT to Glenn S. Hirsch, M.D., Medical Director at the NYU Child Study Center at email@example.com. To subscribe to the ASK THE EXPERT Newsletter or for more information about the NYU Child Study Center, visit www.AboutOurKids.org or call 212-263-6622.