More students than before are reporting anxiety at college or university with institutions reporting relationships, finances and workload being prime causes. At home too, parents are left with the ‘empty nest’, or at least one empty place at the meal table. This loss can cause sadness and worry as well, despite technology such as Skype and Face Time.
Talking through the sad feelings and worries will help and there are probably friends in a similar situation you could get together with if your partner isn’t the right person (or isn’t around) to help. If there are gaps in the day or evening when you would have spent time with your teenager, find other activities to fill them as dwelling can bring your mood down further. Remind yourself that they will be back for holidays and will always need you, but be realistic: we all have to grow up, and most of us would rather have independent children with their careers and families than a 40 year old still living at home.
Another factor cited by the report is that more students are starting their courses with existing anxiety, sometimes from unresolved family issues. One in four young people suffer from mental health problems* and, while mostly coming from vulnerable groups, it’s difficult for teenagers not to feel under pressure both socially and from school work.
Divorcing parents often wait until the kids are 18 before they separate, but doing this just as they go off to college can be a bad time. They will most likely feel anxious and have no control over events, unable to talk things through face to face. If you can, have conversations and take any action before they go away. Use the Summer break for difficult family decisions.
And even if you feel your family is stable and happy talk to your teenagers long before they go away and help them deal with any confidence issues or anxieties before they become overwhelming. Help and advice is on hand from your GP or specialist organisations which can be found online.