by: Christina Botto
The first year at college is an extremely stressful time for both parents and teenagers.
Most teens will be leaving their home, their friends and a world that they have lived in and felt comfortable with for years.
For most teenagers their first year at college includes a new area, along with a new place to live, and a roommate.
Colleges come with a learning environment that is fast paced and a lot less personal than high school.
This is sometimes an extreme shock to a teenager, and your teen may soon find themselves struggling to keep up with all the material they need to learn. Tests and quizzes are longer and require a much broader base of material than high school, causing students' stress levels to rise even more.
With no one to really guide them through this tumultuous time, a first-year student may find unhealthy or dangerous ways to relax and take their mind off of school.
Although the dangers your teenager faces in college are the same as high school, the environment, rules, and people which present these situations are completely different.
Your teenager is now in a place where they make friends and decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.
Since neither you, nor any other adult is looking over their shoulder to provide guidance, they may make unsafe and regretful decisions.
Excessive alcohol consumption is the biggest threat to a teenager in college. Alcohol is easy to purchase and even easier to consume.
On most campuses, there are parties taking place at any given time, with easy availability of alcohol (and sometimes drugs).
With no supervision and security personnel rarely showing up, a teenager may feel almost invincible, therefore pushing themselves to a level of drinking and partying that they cannot handle.
Your teen's life can begin spinning out of control without them even knowing it. Partying too much on the weekend, or even during the school week, may lead to skipped or dropped classes and failing grades.
It is important for parents to stay in touch.
Keep in contact with your teenager, but do not smother them.
Call occasionally to see how much time they are spending in their room. Do not ask them if they are going to class or not. Instead, ask more personal questions about their classes.
For instance, if they are taking an English class, ask:
- what book they are reading at the moment
- What is the book about
- Do they enjoy it
- What have they learned from their studies
By asking about the details, parents will get a better understanding about the progress their teen is making and how serious they are taking their classes.
It is also important to ask them
- How they like the college environment
- I they are making friends
- What are they doing in their spare time
- What entertainment options are available
Make sure your teen knows that he/she can call home anytime, especially if he/she feels overwhelmed or homesick.
At the same time, ask your teenager about the best time to reach her so you can talk when you are missing him/her. By admitting to your teen that you miss him/her, it will be easier for your son or daughter to pick up the phone if he/she is homesick or feeling overwhelmed.
Send your child an encouraging text message - just so they know you're thinking about them.
Parents experiencing the empty nest syndrome are sometimes tempted to convert their college freshman's room to other use.
Here are a couple of reasons why I would recommend not doing that: Your teen will be home from college more than parents initially expect. Additionally, already troubled by the separation of family and friends, it would cause further distress if his/her room were not available when they come home.
During the first year of college your teenager has to work through several emotional issues. It would ease some of the stress for your teen if everything were the way they left it when they return home during breaks.