By Deanna Shoss, MA, Director of Marketing, Communications and Business Development
“Oh no, my baby’s leaving me!” is a common lament around this time of year.
The first time a parent sends their child off to college can be a challenging and apprehensive time. For many children, this is their first time away from home managing responsibilities independently. Discussing these fears can be very helpful for both parents and children. A good time to address these fears is when you are talking about the things they will need for college.
“It’s not all about new bed-sheets and posters for the dorm room, but how will they navigate their new living and learning situation,” says Marilyn Siegel, LCSW and Director of the North Community Counseling Center at Jewish Child & Family Services (JCFS). “Asking questions about how your child feels about fitting into a new environment or leaving old friends and family behind can get your child to open up,” adds Siegel. “It’s good to make sure they are prepared for real-life situations that may arise, like working with a budget for the first time, or how they might respond to peer pressure around drinking or drug usage, or what to do if they feel overwhelmed.”
According to the 2007 U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics "Condition of Education" report, nearly half of all college freshmen never earn a degree, due in part to the lack of emotional, social, and self-care abilities which are needed for a major life transition.
“Acknowledging that anxiety is natural can help your child,” says Beryl Elenbogen, a Clinical Supervisor at the Joy Faith Knapp Children’s Center. “The important part is to know when to ask for help. Symptoms indicating that counseling may be helpful to your child are when the college student distances him or herself from friends, loses interest in things he or she once enjoyed, or his or her grades drop precipitously,” adds Elenbogen.
Parents also might be feeling anxious in regards to separating from their child. “It is important to acknowledge the loss of the family system as it has been,” says Ruth Fruehauf, M.A., LCSW, and Director of a JCFS Community Counseling Center. “It is essential that parents reach out for help for both themselves and their children if feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious persist.” JCFS serves college students and families who are struggling with the emotional demands of this new life stage.
Counseling can have a huge positive impact on the coeds who are struggling. Jewish Child & Family Services provides counseling for children, teens adults and families at 11 locations across Chicagoland. Visit us at www.jcfs.org to find a location near you.