As if sending your nearly grown child off to college isn’t hard enough, sending them off during a global pandemic just made it that much harder. We worry if we’ve prepared our children for everything they need to live apart from us: have we taught them how to manage finances, study time, and sleep schedules? Have we warned them about the dangers of underage drinking and illegal drugs? And now . . . have we told them how to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic while living in close quarters with many other young people on a college campus?
Thankfully Dr. Daniel S. Marullo, a Clinical Psychologist at Children’s of Alabama, is here to help us navigate this new horizon. He specializes in Pediatric Psychology and Neuropsychology but also offers us moms some helpful tips, too!
The Importance of Open Communication
Our college-aged children have plenty of skill sets — they’ll make good decisions, and they’ll make bad decisions. That’s simply where they are in their developmental stage in life. And yet . . . they’re still learning what all it means to be a responsible adult.
That’s where we, as moms, come in. It’s still appropriate to aggravate, annoy, and nag them about COVID-19 prevention — that’s what moms do, right? But ultimately, the decision lies with them.
Of course, we can remind our college-aged children that there are natural consequences to their poor choices during the pandemic. They may get sick. Their college may cancel many fun aspects of college life. And worst of all (in their eyes!), they might even be sent back home to live with you!
One thing we can do as parents is model healthy behavior for our young adults (proper mask wearing, good hygiene, and self isolation when necessary). If we’re not taking this seriously, they won’t either.
Managing This Stressful Time
Our children pick up on our own uneasiness, but we must learn as adults to model healthy ways of coping with anxiety about their heading off to college. We must teach them to be flexible with all the potential changes they might face this school year. Resilience is a life skill that we have the power to teach them.
Talk through problem-solving tips, talk about the “what if’s,” remind them to wear their mask . . . then trust them to do the right thing.
Remind them if they experience depression and/or anxiety, to seek help. Medical professionals are seeing an uptick in anxiety-related issues due to the pandemic. It’s also important to remind them that being anxious about something doesn’t necessarily mean they have an anxiety disorder. Everyone is anxious right now in one way or another because of COVID-19. Remind them they are not alone, even if they are far from home.
Dr. Marullo says this age group is tougher than, say, getting your kindergartener or elementary-aged child to adhere to safety protocols. They’re learning to spread their wings and be independent. But college is an exciting time to learn important life skills such as group projects, working alongside others, opportunities for romance, and honing relationship skills that we don’t want them to miss.
But one good thing about this age group is the fact that they have grown up with technology and are adaptable. They are already accustomed to socializing online, turning in classwork digitally, and this group will succeed in ways other groups might not.
Here’s to a bright future and lots of success for our college students!