If your teenage daughter is getting ready to start her college experience, these tips are for her! In over a decade of coaching teen girls through the transition from high school to college, I’ve summarized ten of the most important ways girls can strengthen their mental health and kick off the year with optimism and confidence.
Share this list with your daughter or use these suggestions to start empowering conversations.
- Identify your stressors. What people or situations trigger stress? Think about actions you can take to handle (or avoid) stressful situations and respond differently to stressful people. For example, if school work tends to be stressful, make a plan to start assignments early or break down big assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks. With stressful people, you may need to ask yourself if you need to communicate a boundary or start to spend less time with him/her.
- Develop a stress-reducing routine. These routines will be different for everyone. I always encourage my clients to test various approaches until they find what works best for them. Some practices to try: morning affirmations, evening gratitude journaling, regular exercise, or listening to an uplifting podcast while you get ready for your day.
- Expect homesickness. It’s completely normal to experience strong feelings of longing to go home. Try to meet those feelings with acceptance, and trust that they are temporary. Make a plan to stay in touch with parents and friends, but start to see yourself going through college days, making new friends, getting along with your roommate, and doing well in your studies. Remember one of my favorite sayings: If you can see it, you can achieve it!
- Plan ahead with your roommate. Talk about how you each see life together. Address topics like study time, bedtime, expectations for having people over, preferences for sharing clothes, jewelry, and makeup, and times when you can each have the room to yourself. Getting these things out early can help prevent stress or discomfort later.
- Create a budget. Understand your financial responsibilities and determine how much you have to spend on food, personal necessities, and fun. Do your best to stay within your budget.
- Familiarize yourself with campus resources. There are many support services offered on campus, including tutoring centers, career counseling, and study groups. These resources can enhance your learning experience, and often be a great place to make friends.
- Cultivate an open mind. College campuses are diverse places. Embrace the opportunity to interact and learn from people with different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. Be curious about what they can teach you.
- Use effective time management techniques. Balance is key to maintaining a calm outlook and being productive. Time management will help you create a balance between academics, extracurricular activities, socializing, and personal time. You might try using a planner or Google Calendar. Many of my clients use time-blocking to plan their weeks. With this approach, you determine blocks of time for classes, studying, workouts, fun, work/job, or other responsibilities.
- Know your boundaries. Take time to consider your limits and what is and is not OK for you in your friendships, romantic relationships, social gatherings, and school. A few common boundaries include going slow in romantic relationships and insisting on consent, telling friends that you are not OK with getting drunk or taking drugs, or requesting that your roommate ask before using your things. Knowing your boundaries, and expressing them clearly, will help you form supportive relationships and establish healthy routines.
- Prioritize self-care. At the most basic level, self-care includes getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, and practicing stress management techniques. Effective time management will help you create a balance between academic, social and personal needs. Tapping into campus resources or meeting with a life-coach will provide you with emotional support and tools to navigate challenges.
Bonus: Go in with a positive attitude! When the future is unknown, it can feel scary and intimidating but the truth is, you have a lot of control over how your college experience will unfold. You get to make decisions every day that will positively impact your energy, mood, friendships, grades, and life.