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Next Steps: Sending Your Child to University

Red Flags and Tips for Success

By Shoshana Rifkind MSW, LCSW

As the prospect of sending your child off to university nears, you may be wondering why you are experiencing anxiety, perhaps even as much as if you were going yourself. It’s tricky being a parent of a young adult. On the one hand, we want to raise independent children, capable of making thought out, rational decisions. We certainly don’t want to be accused of being “helicopter parents” swooping in with decisions, violating boundaries and stifling creativity. On the other hand, we all listen to horror stories, it’s hard to dismiss the myriad tragedies on the nightly news or to ignore the potential for possible decline at this age. What’s the parent of a new university student to do?

First of all, trust yourself. If you hear warning bells going off in your head or gut, listen to them. This doesn’t mean you have to act immediately, unless there is an emergency this can be counterproductive. But do keep an eye on behavior changes over time. Anyone can have an off week, it’s persistent patterns that are concerning.

Yes, university is a time for expanding interests, change and growth. But your child will not change their core personality. Meaning, if for example he/she has always been a high energy level achiever and now you find him/her spending most time asleep and out of class it is a cause of concern. Similarly, if your socially popular child is now self-isolating and has no interests in meeting new friends it is something to keep an eye on.

Parents need to keep communication lines open. It is essential for a child to know that he/she can turn to their parents with any information and not worry about being dismissed, minimized or even worse condemned and criticized. Of course, good communication begins very early in childhood but it is never too late to work on improving this relationship.

Your child may need a bit of extra support to adjust or maybe extensive therapy. Be there to encourage him/her to get the help they need to move on successfully through life.

Shoshana Rifkind MSW, LCSW is a US-based therapist who has worked in a variety of settings, including psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and vocational rehabilitation centers. Before launching her private practice three years ago, she worked in a high school where a large part of her time was devoted to future planning which involved helping teens explore their identity, their strengths, challenges, goals and potential. 

She has worked with parents and school staff to help understand the students, their options and reality. Throughout the years, alumni have shared their experiences and feedback, which she uses in her practice. Connect with Shoshana viaLinkedIn.

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