College Kids Are Struggling. How Can We Help?
February 22, 2011 · Posted in Mental Health, Parenting, Pressure on Children, Teens · Permalink

A study of the mental health of college freshman shows record low levels of mental health and record high levels of stress. In “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” involving more than 200,000 incoming full-time students at four-year colleges, the percentage of students rating themselves as “below average” in emotional health rose. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who said their emotional health was above average fell to 52 percent. It was 64 percent in 1985.

” The study also reports that our children are coming into college already struggling. This jives with anecocdotal reports from college guidance counselors. While the economy may account for some of this stress, the demands of college admission and the drive for achievement is taking a toll. “The share of students who said on the survey that they had been frequently overwhelmed by all they had to do during their senior year of high school rose to 29 percent from 27 percent last year.”

The positive take away from this is that parents of middle and high schoolers can actively comfort and reassure children that their worth is not equal to their achievement. Parents need to counter the prevailing cultural ethos, and even maybe their own beliefs, that academic achievement is the road to happiness. The trends are clear, the mental health of our children is declining and anxiety and depression are on the rise. While as parents we can only control so much, one thing we can do is not add to the stresses of modern life. We can consistently remind our kids, in word and deed, that there are many ways to a fulfilling life. We can give them a healthy does of skepticism about the “succeed at all costs” messages that bombard them. If they can internalize these values they can use them to counteract pressure they face.

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