Develop strategies for self-soothing

Even with a good foundation in practicing time management skills and “coping ahead,” there are going to be times when your teen will feel overwhelmed. But, borrowing from DBT skills, you and your child can make a plan for what to do when difficult emotions are threatening to take over. “They can come up with a written plan that includes weighing the pros and cons and thinking through consequences,” says Dr. Giller. “And then they can take a picture of it on their phone and have easy access to it when they anticipate or experience something that may be challenging.”

The goal is a toolbox of things to try when they are feeling highly emotional or overwhelmed — things that will make them feel better instead of spinning out of control. “It’s having some things that people can really use when they feel they’re on overload,” Dr. Giller says. It could include specific pieces of music, going for a run, or things to touch or smell that have a calming effect.

No formal training or individual therapy is necessary for establishing good habits and coping skills, but when a parent and teen work in tandem, they can establish a strong foundation for starting college. And starting early — before there’s a difficult situation to deal with — is a good idea. As Romano says, “If you don’t use the skills you lose them, so it’s about practicing them all the time. It’s about making and maintaining mental health.”