My College Daughter Has Anxiety: 6 Ways We Helped Her Prepare to Leave Home

Back to school is right around the corner, and it is always filled with excitement about new beginnings, and alongside that, anxiety–2020 with its unique set of circumstances is no different. In fact, I believe it will be more anxiety provoking than any other year we have faced.

Over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety. (Twenty20 @MargJohnsonVA)

I sent my oldest daughter to college three years ago and it was hard

I sent my oldest daughter to college 3 years ago, and it was a challenging season for of us. Sending a child to college is always filled with emotions, but it was heightened for us, because my daughter struggles with anxiety. She was diagnosed with OCD as a first grader, so the roller coaster of waxing and waning anxiety was nothing new to us, but college was a whole new thing.

Because anxiety affects over 40 million Americans, I know there are many parents out there who can relate to what I am saying. However, it can feel lonely at times, because people are hesitant to share the reality of living with anxiety.

I began writing as a result of my daughter’s journey to college, for the sole reason that I wanted to help other parents cope. For this reason, I am sharing my recommendations for sending an anxious son or daughter to college.

Recommendation for the anxious teen who is off to college

  1. Don’t be surprised if the summer before college is an emotional rollercoaster. Although my daughter was incredibly excited about the next chapter after high school, the summer before was difficult. She experienced more panic attacks than she had in prior years, and the activities which used to bring her joy, no longer did. This was difficult for her dad and me to witness, and nothing we did really helped. I think the best thing you can do is be aware that the anxiety can be overwhelming for them, and know that it is normal for them to feel this way. We made sure she had counseling sessions throughout the summer to help her cope.
  2. Find a counselor near their college. Our daughter chose to attend the state university in our own town because she knew she would need the support of her family and network to help her transition. She was able to see her counselor as needed, and we were grateful for this. Nowadays, it is easier to interact with counselors virtually, which is a positive consequence of this awful pandemic. Most colleges have health centers with therapists on campus, as well, so there are many options for obtaining mental health services. I highly recommend being proactive and arranging the options ahead of time so that when the stress becomes too much, they will have a plan in place.
  3. Locate a pharmacy and have prescriptions transferred to the campus: If your son or daughter has prescriptions of any kind, it will be very convenient to have those transferred to the on-campus pharmacy when your child arrives on campus. My daughter’s campus has a pharmacy near the bookstore, and this allows her to pick things up with ease. There will be many “adulting” tasks like this that your son or daughter may not yet know how to navigate. It’s great if you can teach them the process, and soon they will be handling it on their own. Most college freshman are at least 18 and they are considered adults. It is nearly impossible for their parents to take care of medical issues on their behalf without written consent.
  1. Exchange phone numbers with your son’s/daughter’s roommate. My daughter chose to live in the dorm, even though we lived in the same town as her college. She wanted to have the full college experience, and we supported her choice. She knew her roommate prior to moving in, and they did a good job of determining their compatibility ahead of time. I made sure to get her roommate’s cell phone number, and that of her mother, so that we could communicate with each other if there was ever a concern that needed to be shared. I never needed to contact them, but it gave us all peace of mind that we knew how to contact each other in an emergency.
  2. Plan to get the midnight phone call. My daughter enjoyed many fun activities in her first semester of college, but she had many stresses too. She was navigating a relationship with a high school boyfriend who was still in high school, and this added additional stress to her life. At least once, I got a phone call from her after midnight and she was crying from the steps outside of her dorm. I don’t remember now what she was crying about, but she just needed to hear my voice. This was very painful to experience, but by the next day, she was fine. It is amazing what sleep can do!
  3. Don’t be surprised if your son/daughter wants to come home on the weekends. My daughter rarely spent a weekend on campus during her first semester. This worried her dad and me quite a bit. We were worried this would hinder her maturity, and perhaps it did a bit, but the effects were not permanent. By spring semester, she was spending much more time on campus on the weekends, and she had settled in with friends and activities. Every family has to decide what works for them in this situation. I know some parents who did not allow their children to come home until Fall Break, but that would not have worked well for my daughter. You know your kids better than anyone, so try not to let the experiences of others influence your choices. Looking back,I wish I had not worried so much about her desire to be around her family and home, because she is now a very strong, and independent 21-year-old woman.
  4. Seek the company of trusted friends: If you are into using highlighters when you read, PLEASE HIGHLIGHT THIS! I don’t know how I would have made it through the first year of college without my “coffee mamas.” The three of us had daughters who all started college in 2017, and went to different schools. We made a point of having coffee together every month to talk about what our daughters were experiencing, and about our own feelings. This became a practice that we have continued all through their college years, and we have no plans of stopping. One friend created a “Care Package Club” which is a great way to make friends with other parents who are in the same phase of life.

Certain seasons of life are filled with stress and anxiety, and heading off to college is one of the most stressful, but taking a few steps to proactively plan ahead can make all the difference.

More to Read:

17 Items to Take Care of Before Your Teen Leaves for College These are things that will be much easier to do while your teen is still in town.

If Your Teen Gets Sick or Has a Medical Emergency in College Here are the Forms You Will Need Your teen will take control of their healthcare once they leave home but you may want or need to stay involved or be notified in case of an emergency.

About Kathy Wetsell

Kathy Wetsell is a full-time mother to two teen daughters. She has been married to her husband, Barry, for 26 years. She enjoys volunteering in the community, crafting and reading fun fiction and books about psychology, parenting and bible studies. She has recently begun writing about her experiences from the last 19 years of raising humans. She resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas with her family and her two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, but will always consider Texas to be her “home.”

Read more posts by Kathy

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