The One Thing You Haven’t Prepared Your College Student For

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression in college-aged students.  All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Thrill of the Chases. 

Getting ready for college has been a major topic of conversation in our house for a while now. Our teens still have a couple of years before they officially leave the nest, but because they are already attending an early college high school we talk about this almost daily. This means an even greater focus is already being put on college preparedness. This means homework and test grades stay up:; for college. They are aware that a well-rounded portfolio of volunteerism beyond academics is important: for college. Even our summer vacation schedule is dependent on when an additional summer class or two can be taken: for college. 

As parents, we are doing our best to prepare and guide them while still encouraging them to have as much autonomy over their lives as possible. We’ve had excited conversations about potential college tours. We’ve also had heavier conversations surrounding topics of college parties and campus safety. It wasn’t until Med-IQ approached us with this discussion that we considered how important it was to help them prepare their mental health for the college transition too. 

My partnership with Med-IQ allowed me to sit in on a discussion with doctors (John F. Greden, MD, Founder and Executive Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center & Todd D. Sevig, PhD, Director, Counseling and Psychological Services, University of Michigan) to ask questions and learn why this emphasis on mental health during the transition to college is so important. 

Why is talking about mental health during the college transition so important? 

During the call I learned that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. So many risk factors are at play during this transition time that many could simply be overlooked until they weigh so heavily that you and your student is are left dealing with a crisis you are unprepared for. 

Risk factors include:

  • Loss of previous support system and social network  
  • Academic stress 
  • Increased pressure to succeed 
  • Feelings of isolation 
  • Mental illness, especially anxiety and depression 
  • Lack of adequate coping skills 
  • Conduct issues 
  • Previous suicide attempts 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Interpersonal difficulties 
  • History of abuse or trauma 
  • Impulsivity 
  • Fear of mental health stigma 
  • Insomnia

So, where we do begin? What can parents do?

The doctors advised that parents check in with their own level of stigma and their own history with mental health that may be keeping them from approaching the topic with their children. All students are affected to some degree and it is important to gain understanding and education about the realities of college life today. Use online tools and encourage your students to use them to gain insights and assess their own needs. These online tools can help students learn how to track their own stressors and know when to get help. As they transition to living away from their parents, the doctors discussed how the students are learning who they are and who they want to be, and part of that is learning how to take care of their own health.

Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with depression and mental health in your college-aged child, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.

Take the survey here!

 Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.

Without this conversation I would have been left without a starting point to begin a conversation. Looking back on my own experiences, I now recognize some factors in play that I probably should have sought help with when I was their age. At that time neither the adults in my life or I were informed enough to make that decision. I am hoping that because of this information our children will not struggle in the same ways I did. In a future blog post, I will share more about how we are planning to approach the conversation with our students, resources you can use, and what our teens thoughts are after the initial conversations. I hope you’ll participate in this part of the journey with us. I truly believe it will be life changing. 

Disclaimer: Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

What I’ve Learned about Parenting Teenagers Might Offend You

Part of parenting is giving these humans enough space to let them be their own people. It’s a delicate balance of guiding them, equipping them, teaching them social graces, and setting them free. I’ve always felt like it was an honor to be the one to guide these lives but I’ve never felt like I owned them. I’m still very much responsible for holding a position of authority in their life but I also respect their autonomy and personhood. This parenting philosophy has allowed me to learn as much from them during this time as they do from me.

Another of our children crossed over into “teenhood” this month. Thirteen always seems like a monumental year in the life of any child. Lots of parental commentary during the teen years will equate to telling you :”Parenting Teenagers Is the WORST”. I call B.S.

B.S. because unfortunately, Parents, it’s not them. It’s you.

I can say this with confidence because I have been the problem in the past. We’ve gone through the teen years with two children ( 1 boy, 1 girl) already and two more ( 1 boy, 1 girl) to go. I’ll be the first to admit we made mistakes during the first go around, plenty of them if we are being honest. Nobody really knows what to do with the first one, amiright??? We made fewer mistakes during the second attempt and our hopes are high for three and four that we continue to improve. This is not to say that we’ve mastered this teen parenting thing by any means. No, each teenager is their own unique enigma that you will have to figure out the key for.

Each child, and parent, will present their own set of strengths and strongholds. It’s kinda like the freakin’ hunger games, actually. Here’s the thing, teenagers aren’t actually awful. Teenagers are just trying to figure out life, just like you. They are being put into all new situations that they’ve never encountered before. The world is telling them to “grow up” and behave maturely. It’s throwing vocabulary and scenarios in front of them at a rapid pace, none of which they have been trained for, in fact most have been sheltered from any of this in their previous years. P.S. YOU did that.  I know it was in an effort to keep them safe of but you can’t expect them to just magically excel at something they haven’t been trained for.

Their physical bodies are growing like adults but they aren’t adults. Yet when they act like adults they are reminded that they are children, and when they act like children they face consequences for acting as such. Parents, WE are the ones getting it wrong.

Instead of frustration and disappointment, offer grace and patience. Over the next few years you and your children are going to make some mistakes. You might make a lot of them. It’s OK. Allow yourselves the grace to fail. You are all going to be OK. Fewer people are judging you than you think. The parents that have done this before know what you are going through. They are not judging you.  Honestly, anybody participating in parental judging is a jerk. Don’t be a jerk. Parenting is a tough gig no matter what stage you are in.

Toddler to Teenager

Good News! Do you remember the extreme amount of patience that the toddler stage required? THAT was your parental training for now. I tell you this not to worry you but to encourage you. You have already trained for this. You are going to experience some of that craziness again but you are both going to do better this time. Here’s why… Remember when your toddler was throwing a fit, screaming, crying, over who knows what insignificant thing back then? Remember that when they behaved irrationally and you knew it was because they were just hungry/tired/needed your sole attention? (pay attention here.) IT’S THE SAME THING NOW! Their behavior isn’t personal. So much of what’s wrong can be solved with good nutrition, a nap, and knowing that they can have your attention when they need it.

Parenting teenagers is a lot like parenting toddlers

You may not be changing diapers anymore but those same basic toddler issues are the root of a good deal of what is upsetting your teen as well. This is not the time to overlook those things.  Now, I do not approve of the hover-parent lifestyle. You’ve done that. We’ve all done that to one extent or another. Give them the space to put in motion what knowledge you’ve already given them. You tell them you trust them, prove it.  Equip your child to take ownership over their own sleep, nutrition, and attention needs. This may seem simple but it’s not. Teach them about the needed amount of protein in the body, why sugar causes emotional crashes, and how water can literally refresh their mind. Do it in a way that isn’t patronizing. Don’t be manipulating but allow it to be “their idea”. They want to make good choices but they are in the “I do it myself” stage again. Make it easy for them to grab high protein bars, nuts, fruits, healthy fats, or shakes instead of sugar to refuel. If they are going to be successful adults they are going to have to make these choices themselves.

Everyone needs a nap sometimes. Even you parents. If you feel like you might lash out, take a quick 10 min rest time before responding. Things will look different after you’ve slept.

Be the example of not being ruled by your emotions. I was terrified when I had daughters that they would be girls that made decisions led by how they felt. For the record, that’s a behavior that is not exclusive to one gender. This season of parenting is going to be scary. You both are going to be a little apprehensive about what happens next, day to day, minute to minute. Don’t make fear based rules for your children. Make smart ones. Trust your intuition.

Do not forsake a future relationship with your adult children for fear based rules today.

Be available for them. No matter how much you may think they don’t want you around ( they might even say it) they need you around. They need you more than ever. They need your approval, your reassurance and your unconditional love. They don’t need you because they aren’t capable, they need you as a safe space in the world. Every day they are encountering literally hundreds of people at their school just like them trying to figure out who they are. By pure percentages, they are sure to encounter people who have behaved poorly to them that day. They have to figure out how to respond. Some days they’ll get it right. Some days they’ll get it terribly wrong. All of that weighs on their mind and emotions.  Wait until they come to you to offer advice. When they come to you to talk, ask them if they just need a listening ear or if they want advice. Most often they don’t need you to fix it, they just need to get it out of their head and when they hear it all said out loud they have the solution.

Last piece of advice, over the next few years when these teens seems to have lost their minds, try to see back to the sweet tiny person you knew a decade or so ago and handle this person with the same amount of love and patience. Don’t scream back. Don’t allow these actions to determine your reaction or rattle your emotions. Just know that you are the perfect parent for this human in front of you and they are the perfect human for you.

You are both doing a great job and It really is going to be okay.

Just when you think your teenagers have given up on you…

Today the strangest thing happened. Our teenager complimented us to his friends.

No really.. I’ll say it again. Our teenager actually complimented his parents ( that’s us!) to his friends.

Just when you think your teenagers have given up on you…

Y’all it was the strangest thing. He called earlier in the afternoon to ask if a new friend could come over and hang out. That wasn’t the strange part. We always require our kids to give a courtesy call if they are bringing guests home. Of course, we agreed. (Parental sidenote: As long as a parent is home, ALWAYS say yes when teens ask to invite their friends over no matter how messy the house is – they don’t care –  and you will always want your kids to feel more comfortable in your house that outside your home. It’s the way life should be.)

So, I am in my room working and I hear our son giving the new kid the house tour. Always good to alert others where the fire exits, snacks and extra toilet paper are kept right? I always find it interesting the features of our home that the kids point out when they introduce our home. This time I chuckled a bit when the boys got to the laundry room and our son went into great detail concerning all the features of our fancy washer and dryer to his 15 yr old friend as if he would be regularly stopping by to do laundry. In his defense, my husband insisted on teaching him to do all his own laundry at the age of 12. It was a pretty awesome thing to have their dad teach them to do laundry.  Then, my heart melted a bit when he told his friend  how cool his mom’s job was and bragged on my job as a blogger. ( Thanks LG for the street cred!)

I totally played it cool and just kept typing in my room.

Later on I asked them if his friend would need a ride home and he asked if could stay for dinner. Again, we agreed. We  have an open dinner policy at our house too. Anyone who is around at dinnertime, gets fed. There are a few rules though. 1) All family and guests eat together at the table, even if we have to squeeze. There is always room for 1 more. 2) Everyone gives thanks for the evening meal. Attitude of gratitude y’all. 3) You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. There is only one meal and unless its your birthday, I don’t take requests. 4) When you are here, you are family.

Our kids all know the rules. They know not to be surprised when we tell corny jokes around the table or when we quiz their friends about the best/worst part of their day too( see rule #4). We are corny, crazy, and sometimes endearing bunch but we are always ourselves, however that appears to our newcomers.

As Randy & I were cleaning up from dinner and loading the dishwasher in the kitchen, we heard our oldest telling  some of our family journey of how we got to Austin. He was telling about how his dad and I started and ran our own company for several years and in his words “were successful” and how cool it all was to see his parents work so hard. Whhhhat?! Our teenager thought we were cool? He recognized our efforts AND he was telling his friends?!? What strange dimension have we entered where WE, the parents, were cool again?!?

Years of eye rolling, being told “things aren’t like when you were kids”, the like. Were we to think this season of life might be on its way out????

I’m not completely convinced but tonight we got a glimmer of the other side. It was nice.

 

 

6 Tips to help your Teenager Find their First Job

6 tips to help your teenager find a first job

We had a momentous occasion at our house yesterday. Our oldest son was hired for his first part-time job! He came home so excited and ready to take on the world. I’d like to say getting his first job was a simple and painless process but it wasn’t. His entry into the workforce was paved with hours of applications, many handshakes, a little frustration, and a few interviews. As with any new endeavor our children attempt, from taking their first steps to walking down the aisle, they will always need a little coaching.

Helping your teenager find their first job is a really exciting time! It also brought back a flood of memories and several funny “my first job” stories for my husband and I to share around the kitchen table. We had fun taking a trip down memory lane and found out we actually had several things to share on what to do and even a few do-not-ever do’s. It is definitely different being the parent coaching the child through the process. If your teenager will soon be looking for a position in the workforce, check out some things we did to prepare our teens.

How to help your Teenager Find their first Job

Volunteer the year before

First time job seekers won’t have a lot to offer in the way of a proven track record. A great way to build references and a beginner resume is to volunteer. When your child turns 15, or hopefully before, ask them what organizations are of interest to them and see if those locations have volunteer programs they can work with. Your local Chamber of Commerce should have a list of non-profits or be able to provide ideas for many community organizations looking for volunteers. Some may require a parent volunteer with them but it really is a great way for your teen to build up experiencing working and interacting in a professional way before their first paid job.

Prepare them for rejection

Almost no one gets every job they apply for every time. To avoid your teen getting discouraged easily, have them apply several places and prepare them with a response in case a location they were hoping to work isn’t hiring. Something like “Thank you for your time. I’ll leave a copy of my resume and contact information if you are needing someone in the future” coupled with a good handshake will teach good business social skills.

How to complete an Application

Most applications are simple forms but to a teen who doesn’t have experience with them, they can seem foreign. Print off one or two applications for them to fill out at home just for practice. Most locations will allow them to take the application and return it later but we had a few places that asked our son to fill them out on the spot.  Make sure your son/daughter is prepared with some key information to help them complete the application on their own. Some information for them to keep handy:

  • Proof of age, such as a birth certificate or driver’s license
  • Social Security #
  • Address and contact information of school
  • Address and contact information for previous jobs, internships, and volunteer service
  • Names, addresses, and contact information of one to three references

Offer “fashion advice”

I know, I know. Most teens DO NOT want fashion advice from their parents but in this instance you have a little bit of credibility. No one expects your teen to apply in a business suit for their first job but you are laying a foundation for future jobs.  Being well-groomed, having a neat appearance, and a fresh haircut appeal to most any employer.

Tips for the Interview

  • Dress nicely.
  • Arrive early.
  • Remember to turn your cell phone OFF.
  • Stand up straight.
  • Greet people with a smile and a firm handshake.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Don’t use  “um,” “like,” and “yeah.”
  • Be sure to discuss salary  when the job offer is extended.
  • Say thank you and shake hands at the end of the interview.

Follow up

If your son/daughter hasn’t heard anything in a weeks time, suggest they make a phone call to the hiring manager to follow-up.  Following up will show their sincere interest in the company and can often make a significant difference in landing the job.

A first job is something you never forget. What was your first job?