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Starting college: don't let stress ruin it

Expert shares tips for first-time families with a student living on campus.
Posted: 3:15 AM, Aug 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-23 07:19:28-04
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KENMORE, N.Y. (WKBW) — The cost of going to college is not cheap.

According to the College Board:

  • $21,370 was the average cost for tuition, fees and room & board at a public, four-year, in-state college during 2018-19.
  • $37, 430 was the average cost for tuition, fees and room & board at a public, four-year, out-of-state college during 2018-19.
  • $48,510 was the average cost for tuition, fees and room & board at a private, four-year college during 2018-19.

With so much at stake financially for families, the situation can be very stressful for parents and first-time college students - one that can be made even more stressful by having a student move away from home.

"Stress affects both the mind and the body," said Nicole Chumsky, a licensed mental health counselor and owner of two holistic centers named "Be Embodied."

According to Chumsky, inability to handle the stressful transition of a child from high school to college can both impact the student's performance in the classroom and the parent's ability to perform their job duties.

Here's some advice:

WARNING SIGNS THAT YOU MAY NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP TO DEAL WITH STRESS:

  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Ruminating thoughts: constantly thinking about the same things over and over.
  • Spending too much time thinking about the past or future.
  • Socially withdrawing.
  • Increased conflicts in relationships.
  • Increased restlessness.

HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS AS A NEW COLLEGE STUDENT:

  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Don't just sit inside your dorm room.
  • Keep up with your studies.
  • Interact with upperclassmen and try to find a mentor.
  • Join a college club.
  • Use on-campus counseling services.
  • Exercise or take part in physical activities (such as Yoga).
  • Learn to meditate.
  • Be patient with your roommate.
  • Don't rely on your roommate to be your entire social network - branch out and make friends.
  • Go to every event on campus during the first weeks of school - even events that you think you might not like.
  • Go to floor events in your dorm to meet the other resident students.
  • Get to know your RA who can help you if you get homesick or have problems adjusting.
  • Put your cell phone away and talk to people in the dining hall.
  • Form study groups with people in your dorm.
  • Students who go home every weekend report a higher level of college dissatisfaction than those who stay on weekends.

HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS AS A PARENT FACING AN "EMPTY NEST"

  • Communicate with your son/daughter.
  • Change the way you talk with your child so they feel like you are treating them as an adult (instead of "talking down"), this will make it easier for them to call you more frequently.
  • Start a hobby.
  • Get re-involved in activities that you liked before you had children.
  • Get involved in a new activity.
  • Exercise or take part in physical activities (such as Yoga).
  • Trust that your children will make good decisions.
  • Don't check-up on your kids constantly - it will just push them away.
  • Develop a communication plan of when you can expect a call home to see how things are going.
  • Make every effort to attend "Parent Weekends."
  • Remind your child that you are happy for them and excited about their college opportunity.
  • Don't be afraid to call the residence hall director if you are concerned about your child - but don't abuse the privilege as the hall director can't give out information about grades, judicials, or whether the student is going to class.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Millions of families have gone through the same situation and things worked out fine.

Nicole Chumsky works with several young adults and said one the big causes of stress for kids going to college is that they never learned life lessons, such as how to cook, clean or shop, because their own parents did everything for them.

The counselor said treatment in those situations can be as simple as having the individual prepare a meal on their own and talking about the challenges they faced.