Parents and therapists can play a role in helping students manage stress and set realistic expectations as they prepare for college.
Sponsored by Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness
Kindergarten can seem like just yesterday, yet you’re not-so-little one may be headed off to college this fall. Along with making sure they have the everyday essentials, Dr. Melanie Schwartz, owner of Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness, emphasizes the importance of having the emotional tools to handle new stressors.
“From an early age, it is often instilled into children that they need to work as hard as possible to get into college,” Schwartz says. “Once they get into college, there is the belief that now students can relax because they accomplished their goal. But that isn’t the case. College is actually very similar to high school, and they have to do just as many extracurricular activities as possible to get into graduate school or get an internship or job after they graduate.”
Pressure surrounding college starts as early as middle school. From AP classes to SAT and ACT prep courses, the message students are hearing is that they need to constantly be striving for more, doing more and constantly working toward something.
“This stress and anxiety are starting at an early age,” Schwartz says. “We are seeing an increase in depression and anxiety in students who feel they can’t achieve these unrealistic expectations. If they don’t know how to deal with that, and often they don’t, they are turning to unhealthy habits or self-medicating.”
The challenge of finding yourself is difficult during teen years, while the pressure of achieving success is difficult to navigate at any age. Combining the two is seen as a major cause of the increase in anxiety, depression and suicide in children today.
“Children don’t have the coping strategies to manage this level of stress effectively,” Schwartz says. “Children with access to therapy learn the most effective strategies to teach them to slow down, lower expectations and balance being a child with being successful. Parents who recognize the need for therapy are giving their students a wonderful gift.”
Parents can also help by having realistic expectations for their student from a young age.
- Teach them how to relax and “just be a kid.”
- Balance academics vs. playtime.
- Make sure that playtime is truly play and not more busy time.
- Incorporate family time, regardless of how busy you are.
There are also signs to watch for as students navigate education from high school through college.
- Do they seem anxious over simple tasks?
- Are they able to unwind and relax when finished with a project?
- Are they handling their emotions well?
“Be aware of how your child is behaving. Educating yourself on the symptoms of depression and anxiety can teach you what to look for,” Schwartz says. “Most importantly, keep open lines of communication at all times. If your student doesn’t feel like they have a safe place to express their emotions, therapy can help them discuss and also create the strategies they need for success.”
Therapy can be a safe place for children and young adults to process their emotions and cope with stress. It can also provide them with the essential tools they need throughout their lives to tackle difficult emotions in a healthy way.
Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness
2075 E. West Maple Road, Commerce Township
7035 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield
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