What do you do when your children come home from college changed?

 In Articles, Family

Sending your children off to college can be a challenging time for many parents, especially those who have come to define themselves by their children’s successes. Seeing your child off to college may feel like a relief well-deserved after a job well done, but unsurprisingly, many conflicting feelings are bound to arise. The child that you’ve raised from diapers has finally flown from the nest, and it can be difficult to halt the worries that seem to flow from 18 years of practice of looking out for your baby that once depended on you for his or her every need.

Parents just beginning to relax may focus their attention on the other children still at home, or they learn to redirect it towards one another. As time rolls on, parents may allow the pride of having a child in university sink in, and breathe a sigh of relief, again, that their job is done. But what happens when your child returns from college and they seem different now? They seem to have changed, and you’re not quite sure if they are the same person you sent away.

How Things Have Changed

It’s not a new story that parents with strict rules at home often face rejection and complaints from their children when they return home because of the freedom they have now tasted in the college environment.  Even at home, they may remain resistant to parental influence and want to continue on in their newly-established independence. This is not typically a concern warranting the attention of outside intervention, but rather a rite of passage, and an indication that the family could stand to learn to implement limits and structure as well as compromise. So, does that mean that parents are still in the clear when it comes to raising their kids? What are the signs to look for that things are not what they seem, or that your child may need a little extra guidance and direction?

A Slice of College Life

Recent research indicates that nearly 30% of college students surveyed in the Spring of 2019 reported suffering academically due to struggling with anxiety, 45% reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function.  In addition, about one-third cited struggling with academics, finances, relationships both intimate and familial, and difficulty sleeping to top the list of traumatic or difficult-to-handle concerns plaguing them. Nearly one-third of college students reported receiving a diagnosis or treatment for a mental health concern, and we know from research elsewhere that 86% of students with a known psychiatric disorder withdraw from their studies prior to completing their degree.

This seems to beg the question, as parents, what are the signs to look out for that your child is struggling with a mental illness or may require additional support? If you suspect that there is something going on with your son or daughter, that is more than the expected readjustment period home, pay attention to the following symptoms:

  • Changes in sleeping habits, such as staying up all night, sleeping all day, or oversleeping in general
  • Over- or under-eating (more than a typical turkey-day binge)
  • Significant changes in relationships or ability to maintain friendships
  • Decreased contact with parents or uncharacteristic distance in once-important relationships
  • Misuse of alcohol, marijuana, or other substances, or what appears to be them sneaking off in order to do so
  • Lost employment or decreased ability to function at school
  • What appears to be uncontrollable feelings of anger, hopelessness, or severe anxiety
  • Reports of paranoia, or seeing or hearing things that other people cannot see or hear

While you may not have access to all areas of your son or daughter’s life, if you identified them in many of the symptoms listed above, it may be time to have an important and direct conversation with them, expressing your concerns and communicating your support.

Arm yourself with the knowledge of programs like Launch Centers, that are designed to help your young adult get their life in order, and build their lives to include successful education, find purposeful employment, and maintain meaningful relationships. With a combination of practical and therapeutic elements to address needed life skills and the emotional core beneath the surface, Launch Centers can help you to shoulder the burden of parenting into the next phase of life. Contact us today to learn more!


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