For others, however, the restrictions and lockdowns have significantly impacted their mental well being. A survey of 144 colleges conducted by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors this fall reported a 57-percent increase in anxiety among students and an 81-percent increase in loneliness, compared to the first four weeks of fall 2019.
“College kids have lost the balance between work and play. Most campuses are quiet, kids can’t have parties, they are sitting in dorms, hanging out with a few friends, doing work, with nothing to look forward to and no break from the redundance,” said Dr. Julia Turovsky, a clinical psychologist in Chatham, N.J. “Parents may need to give them time to recuperate, hibernate and rest and not take it personally.”
For kids who have a history of depression or struggle with social anxiety, the pandemic may be especially challenging. “I always encourage parents to share the burden by getting their kids additional resources, such as therapy or online support, and to maintain regularly scheduled medical appointments,” Dr. Turovsky said. “The pediatrician, internist and gynecologist are good resources to screen for issues and provide guidance and recommendations, so parents should encourage their kids to set those up.”
Get ready to negotiate.
Your child may return expecting to hang out with groups of high school friends or, if she is 21, to go to bars in states where they are open. Have a conversation about rules around socializing and remind them that safety comes first.
Once you do, allow your child to express her opinion and leave room to negotiate. “Some parents are OK with small groups hanging out in the basement, and some feel comfortable with kids creating a ‘pod’ of like-minded friends who agree to only hang out with each other,” Dr. Turovsky said.
Last summer, before her twins left for their freshman year, Laurie Wolk, of Larchmont, N.Y., asked each to make a list of three friends they would have come into the house and whose parents Mrs. Wolk might speak to about exposure. “It gave me comfort knowing who was coming in and out and what chances I was taking,” said Mrs. Wolk. The sooner you address the issue, the more time you’ll have to explore arrangements that work for both of you.
If your child’s friends come inside your home, for example, you can ask them to wear a mask and keep a safe distance. But spending time with friends outdoors with masks while maintaining physical distance remains the safest plan. Firepits and controlled outdoor gatherings will go a long way.