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How to support your young adult as they head to college

Parent

Teen

Resilience

Relationships

August 29, 2023

It’s happening — your young adult is about to leave home and head off to college. You probably have mixed emotions as you look around your soon-to-be empty nest. It’s completely normal to feel worried about how they’ll do out in the world and how you’ll cope while watching them take flight. While we can’t eliminate all your fears (they’re completely normal!), we can give you tips for how to help your not-so-little-one prepare for this transition. 

How to best support your young adult 

Of course, you want to do all you can to teach your child to be resilient, capable, and independent — even while you’re likely dealing with so many emotions yourself. One way to make sure they can handle whatever life blows their way is to reinforce their problem-solving skills. 

Studies show that solid problem-solving skills have been linked to decreased depression and anxiety among young college students. Problem-solving skills, AKA critical thinking, involve analyzing information, evaluating your response, and making sound judgments — all things needed to be successful in school, career, and relationships. Give these tips a try to help your teen navigate inevitable turbulence: 

  1. Spend less time giving advice and more time asking open-ended questions. Instead of asking questions that require more than a simple yes or no answer, try asking your child questions that require more thought. For example, "What do you think about packing some momentums that are important to you?" Now is the time to listen more and encourage your teen to learn how to reach within and find their own solutions (I know, it is sooooo hard).
  1. Challenge some of their basic perceptions. Encourage your child to think critically about what they feel or believe to be true (like what it means to be popular or cool) and to question whether these beliefs are valid or not. For example, "Why do you believe that?" or "What does that mean to you?”

  2. Provide real-world examples. Real-life stories can help model problem-solving skills. Try sharing articles and videos of people who have overcome difficulties, created something, or acted selflessly. And let them in on times when you’ve had to overcome difficult situations and how you made it through. Real examples can help your young adult get inspired to persevere and use things like creativity and altruism to approach their problems in the future.
  1. Remind them of their coping skills. Understanding how to tap into coping skills can help teens manage stress and adapt to new situations. You can help them build out their campus toolkit by using things like mindfulness, movement, or journaling. Consider taking them to a yoga class, gifting them a meditation app, or simply letting them know that you’re always available as a source of support.  
  1. Tell them you have confidence in them. When teens feel that their parents trust and believe in their abilities, they are more likely to take responsibility for their academics and make responsible decisions. Keep in mind that comparing your child to others can be damaging to their self-esteem and individuality, so focusing on their unique qualities and supporting their personal goals is important.

Parents and caregivers, YOU’VE GOT THIS! They ARE ready to take flight. Before you have a moment to acclimate to the empty nest (i.e., turning their room into your Pinterest-worthy “living my best life” space), they will be back home enjoying their fall break. We’re sure they’ll have A LOT of stories (and dirty laundry) to share, so be sure to sit back and admire how much they (and you) have grown.