Any parents out there wiping away tears as you help pack up your college-aged children? Is your mind racing of all the challenges, obstacles, and adversities your kids may face?
I completely understand. Moving our middle daughter, Whitney, who is a junior in college, brought on a mix of emotions. As we faced the challenge of moving her full-size box spring up the second story of the house she was renting, it literally got stuck—and we had a choice. We could either let our frustrations get the best of us, or problem-solve through it.
A dresser from the curb became our ladder, we removed a window from the second story, and then lifted the box spring through the window.
It was incredibly hot and humid out and we were sweating profusely. What could have been completely frustrating moment—along with raging emotions of our baby who only yesterday was in a crib is now a junior in college—became a moment of triumph. A resiliency that comes with positive problem-solving skills. This might seem silly to many of you, but after the stress our family has been through, I’m proud of these moments now. A year ago, I would have felt like pulling my hair out of my head. Now I’m laughing again.
Trust me, as we packed Whitney up, I did the typical Mom checklist in my head. Questioning myself of all things I was supposed to teach her. Did I teach her enough to prepare her for the future? I know many amazing families that on the outside seem completely perfect. But behind closed doors, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, rape, pregnancy, even suicide lurk. No one is spared from this. Did I really prepare her?
Doing all the typical packing of toiletries, bedding, clothes, I couldn’t help but think that all these are items are necessities, but they are not some of the most important items that could make a massive difference in my daughter’s life.
There is so much more than just cute dorm comforters. It turns out that most college students are packing up more than just tangible items. They are also packing up anxiety, depression, and stress.
In Wisconsin, where I live, a 2015 survey of counseling centers in the UW-system found that almost one-third of the students enrolled in our state schools experienced clinically significant mental health symptoms over a 12-month period. The survey also found that about 10 percent each year seriously consider suicide and a bit over 1 percent attempt it.
My daughter goes to a UW school so this is extra close to my heart. National statistics aren’t any better. So many college students are feeling overwhelmed by hard classes, the financial pressures of college, the loans that are adding up, roommate problems, and relationships ups and downs. Plus, most college students don’t sleep enough, they eat poorly, and they don’t get enough exercise.
As a parent, I want to share what I have learned, so that maybe we can help YOUR college-aged student. In addition to all the other material items that my daughter packed, we also made sure that she knows about these SEVEN very important tools and necessities, to help her not be one of the UW statistics.
The first three are holistic, nutritional support for gut and brain health because studies now show that we have a first brain (the brain) and a second brain (the gut). If the microbiome is off in your gut it totally affects how you feel, including emotions, moods, anxiety, sleep, focus, thoughts and so much more. I have fallen in love with a brand that only uses premiere ingredients sourced from around the world that are as pure in quality as they can be in this world. Basically, I look for the best I can find and share it with all of you!
1. Rest. College students are known for their late nights (or all nighters). When they do manage to sleep, they need restorative sleep. My family found a product that is derived from non-GMO corn grass and encourages the body to produce its own melatonin naturally. (Sounds weird, right? I promise it works!) Students fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and spend more time in REM sleep and deep sleep, which allows them to function better in the morning!
2. Resiliency. Pressure from finances, school work load, relationships, to peer pressure surround our students. We can’t change the amount of work that our college students have to do, but we can help them think clearly and think their way through the challenges. We’re using a magic mix of Ashwagandha, Kanna, Rafuma, and Magnolia Bark that helps us all not feel overwhelmed, keeps our anxiety at bay, and helps us be more resilient, with no negative side effects. This has changed our families life!
3. Focus. Students will turn to all sorts of caffeinated products to help them stay awake. But so often there is added sugar or stimulants that will cause other problems. We’ve found an amazing drink that uses Matcha as a base to calm the mind and relax the body even while providing a small amount of natural caffeine. The other ingredients improve mental clarity, improve concentration, and give students a relaxed alertness, which means they will be able to focus and think clearly—without jitters or their heart racing.
The next four essentials to arm our children with require that parents get all the elephants out of the room. Talk openly and confidently about common sense safety tips. Don’t speak fear over your children, but cover them confidently about simply being smart.
4. Mace. Be safe. Be smart. Teach your children to never go anywhere alone, to always have a buddy. And go nowhere without a can of mace. You can pick some up at a Walmart or Target. And remember these have expiration dates. So purchase new every year.
5. Community. Encourage your children to find safe people they discuss hard situations with. Assure them, there is nothing they can’t share with you. Our kids get “that talk.” And I follow with sharing stupid choices I made and learned from. If you want your kids to talk with you, well, get ready. You have to be open to them too. I’m not afraid to look them in the eye and tell them there is nothing they can’t share with me. But if they aren’t comfortable at first, find a teacher, professor, school counselor, pastor, or mentor to share. The worst thing they can do is bottle up and hide what they have going on. We have always had a no-secret policy in our house. Secrets hold shame. Create a shame-free environment for your college-aged student.
6. Perspective. These young adults need the reminder to work hard and be determined, but also to know that perfection is way over-rated and being in the middle of the pack (or even last in the class) doesn’t mean you aren’t a success. (If they don’t believe that, I’ll be happy to tell them about my education history!) There are many successful people in this world who are college dropouts or never even went to college. That’s me. I never went to college. And guess what, I pay my bills, contribute to my community, have built businesses, and have risen up in the middle of great adversities. So, parents, stop putting a ton of pressure on your kids with college.
In some cases, college is way overrated. The pressure our kids are under is leading them to feel they aren’t good enough, they buckle under pressure. Unfortunately, this can lead to them feel inadequate and they turn to drug addiction. The best way we can help them stay away from the massive epidemic is teach them other ways to cope with stress and challenges, to stop putting negative pressure on them, and to teach them to love themselves first. That they are enough, just the way they are.
7. Smile. My last bit of encouragement is to just smile. My daughter, Whitney, has the most beautiful smile and I just want her to shine that smile in all she does. Through good times and bad. Being a master problem solver, finding joy in the difficulties, laughing through the tough times is healing in itself. Her faith walk in this life will see her during the challenges that await her. She knows there is nothing we can’t work through and, most importantly, pray through.
From one parent to another, we need to take care of ourselves too. As parents we always put our children first, but the reality is if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t give our best back to them. No matter how old your children are, take ownership to your own health and mindset. Be your best, so you can give your best. Follow your own advice to your children.
If you want to not sweat anymore over the “stuck mattresses” in your life, and would like more information on the tips I have shared, fill out the comment section below and I would be more than happy to share with you what has improved our quality of life.
Sarah Hein the Pioneer