以及美高校咨询中心联合调查结果的资料来看，每年秋季（Oct/ Nov), 健康咨询中心便进入了一个高峰期，学生以Academic stress, Anxiety and Depression 来咨询的最多. 在与学生咨询交流的过程中发现， 有一个良好自律性的学生would overcome his or her difficulties better, and in long term would be good for life, for all aspects of health and growth.
Juliann Garey is a journalist, novelist and clinical assistant professor at NYU. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Marie Claire; her novel, Too Bright To Hear Too Loud To See, was an American Library Association award-winner and NPR Best Book of the Year in 2013)
Why so much emotional distress, especially during the first year away from home? Everything from academic pressure to over-protective parenting to excessive engagement in social media has been blamed for the spike in anxiety and depression.
What’s clear is that adolescents making the transition from high school to college need not only academic skills to ace the classwork, and time-management skills to stay afloat, but emotional problem-solving skills to handle the challenges. As parents, we can’t shadow them in the freshman dorm, but we can help supply them, before they leave home, with a toolbox of skills and habits to use when they become stressed or overwhelmed.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of kids are getting through middle school and high school doing okay, but they go off to college and it’s too much,” says Dr. Lindsey Giller, a clinical psychologist in the Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute. Some kids are just overwhelmed by organization and time management issues, increased academic pressure and managing their lives independently — the emotional roller-coaster of a new social universe.
And if they’re away from home, they don’t have the support network they’ve been used to. This is especially true of kids who find themselves on a large campus where it’s difficult to get to know their professors and harder to find their social niche.
“Often the result,” says Dr. Lindsay Macchia, an associate psychologist in the Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, “is what’s called emotional dysregulation — their mood is all over the charts. What we want to figure out is what skills are going to help them re-regulate and take better control over their mood, so it doesn’t get in the way of their friendships, their academics, or typical day-to-day life.”
Don’t try to ‘fix’ every problem
Many of us have grown used to jumping in at the first sign that our child is distressed, to come to the rescue.
“The first thing parents should do is stop trying to fix things,” says David Romano, a psychotherapist and member of Active Minds, an advocacy organization that works to encourage open discussion of mental health on college campuses, to avoid suicides. Romano, who sees a lot of college-bound adolescents, says that what teens need to hear, especially when they’re feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, is that “It’s okay not to feel okay.” The goal is to validate their feelings, but not solve their problems.
When parents notice that their teen is in distress, Dr. Giller suggests responses like:
“I see you’re really struggling right now.”
“I’m guessing that this is really hard for you.”
“I see that thinking about this test tomorrow is making you really anxious.”
And then, let them deal with the problem knowing you’re there as a support net. “That can build a bridge so the teen can start thinking on their own, using their own problem-solving skills, while still feeling listened to and heard by their parent and supported in that way,” says Dr. Giller.
Help your child establish good self-care
Self-care is often the first thing sacrificed in the first year away from home.
Sleep is one of the first things stressed college students sacrifice, so helping kids establish and practice good sleep habits before they leave home is crucial. It’s important for college-bound students to understand that sleep deprivation can not only make academic functioning more difficult, it can also make it harder for them to exercise self-control, make good decisions and regulate their mood.
Eating habits also affect mood: the college years are when the majority of eating disorders develop, as overwhelmed students attempt to gain a sense of control by restricting their diet. Restricted eating, in turn, undermines judgment and contributes to depression.
“Taking care of themselves physically in order to take care of their mental health is one key to reducing the likelihood that unwanted emotions will flare in the first place, or become so intense they’re overwhelming,” says Dr. Giller.
Related: Parents’ Guide to Eating Disorders in College
Work on planning and ‘coping ahead’
A lot of distress can be avoided by helping kids learn to plan ahead. That means not only thinking through how they’re going to get a big assignment done, and thinking carefully about how they use their time, but planning how they’ll handle challenging， situations.
（planning ahead and time management 是需要培养和训练. 在此，提示一下我们的家长，如果孩子总是乱七八糟，丢三落四，
常常拖得很晚才睡，作业或projects总拖到最后一分钟， 总是不专注，干事有头无尾的… 等等也要考虑是否咨询一下学校counselor 是否有潜在的ADHD或Learning Disorder. 早期发现，早期干预， 会更好地帮助我们的孩子在学业事业和生活上的成功. 如果您有这方面的疑问，请看相关文件…）
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.”