Tips for Parents
For parents with concern about adult children away at college or graduate school, here are some tips to consider.
Listen while resisting the urge to lecture
Young adults need a place to talk, but may not be able to ask for it. They are more likely to open up if they feel they can do so without fear of criticism or judgment. It can be difficult to hear that your son or daughter is suffering without jumping to advice-giving. The important thing to remember is that your child is trying to communicate with you. Avoid ultimatums.
Give space, but make it clear you are there for your child. Avoid asking too many questions, as they will often speak less if they feel pressured. If they feel you are available without prying they are more likely come to you.
Be Gentle and Persistent
Don’t give up. Your child may shut you out at first. It can be difficult for them to speak about the trouble they are having. Emphasize your willingness to listen.
Reassure without minimizing feelings
Validate your child’s emotions even if they seem trivial to you. Communicate that you want to understand how they feel.
When to Get Help
Children with mental health concerns need to get help sooner rather than later. Pay attention if your child has any of these warning signs:
- Refusing to attend school or declining academic performance
- Excessive fearfulness or worrying
- Enduring sadness and crying or hopelessness
- Strong negative feelings about him/herself
- Outbursts of uncontrollable anger or overreacting
- Persistent or extreme concerns about physical appearance
- Repetitive habits and rituals like hand-washing, counting or touching
- Worry about being harmed, hurting others or doing something “bad”
- Excessive sexual thoughts or actions
- Having racing thoughts that are too fast to follow
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Eating large amounts of food and then vomiting, exercising excessively, or abusing laxatives to avoid weight gain
- Obsessive dieting and/or exercising
- Seeing things or hearing voices that others do not see or hear
Speak to your child’s doctor about your concerns
You know your child better than anyone else. Children may be reluctant to bring up emotional issues with their doctors. If you have concerns about your child’s emotional/mental health speak with your doctor. They will be able to answer questions and provide information about medication and therapy options.
Don’t rely on Medication Alone
The best treatment options for children/young adults include multiple approaches, including therapy. Therapy will often resolve symptoms, improve relationships, and decrease school trouble, but medication can help in more severe cases.
Finding the right service is critical
Not all therapists are the same. Look for a psychologist who specializes in students. The best therapy will come from a therapist who has experience and expertise in treating college students.