Every fall, millions of parents send their teens off to college, hopeful that they’ve done all they can to prepare their child for her next chapter in life. But, this year is presenting even more challenges for parents and students alike.
Transitioning to college for the 2020-21 school year is going to be anything but normal and will look at lot different than in years past. With an ongoing pandemic and much uncertainty, a few extra steps and precautions are necessary to ensure a smooth transition.
“We as a world have not had to deal with anything like COVID-19 in the recent past, especially this generation,” said Dr. Crystal Cole, an adolescent medicine specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “This is all new and we’re inventing things as we go along. Everything we do in response to COVID-19 is thinking outside the box.”
Most teens have already experienced a lot of changes due to COVID-19. Several major senior milestones — prom, spring concerts, graduation ceremonies — were cancelled or seriously modified due to the virus. It’s important teens don’t let this experience throw them off track. Now is the time to focus on the next chapter of their academic careers.
In these uncertain times, Dr. Cole offers practical tips to help your teen prepare for the upcoming fall semester — and ensure your college-bound child leaves the nest with more than a wing and a prayer.
Know their risks
“Most young people aren’t worried about the disease affecting their health,” said Dr. Cole. “Instead, they’re worried most about how it will affect their social interactions and life experiences.”
But while it is true that younger people are at a lower risk for serious complications or even death from COVID-19, it’s important for them to understand that it still is possible. There have been some young people who have gotten very, very sick and have long-term effects from the virus. Not to mention, kids run the risk of spreading it to their loved ones who may be at high risk and could suffer significant impacts.
So be sure to have the conversation with your teen and reinstill the importance of wearing a mask, keeping their distance whenever possible and washing their hands frequently. Be sure you’re modeling this behavior, as well.
Prepare for roadblocks
Changes will be plenty when transitioning into college, especially this year. Students will be expected to wear a mask, college functions will be limited and the way kids traditionally attend class may be altered as many colleges move to online learning.
Kids need to be flexible and adjust quickly to change. As the pandemic continues, things may be cancelled or recommendations altered. When teens expect challenges along the way, it can make them easier to face.
“Remind your kids that even though there is a lot of uncertainty right now, it won’t last forever,” said Dr. Cole. “Let them know they need to weather the storm and they’ll be alright on the other side.”
Your teen has all her school supplies and dorm room essentials ready to go. She’s all set, right? Wrong. With online schooling and video conferencing being the new normal this year, technology is going to be ever so important.
Make sure you and your teen know what technological requirements are essential for lectures and set up the necessary devices and programming before she heads off to school.
Reinforce her support system
Yes, your child knows you’re there to support her, but setting up a communication schedule is a good way to reinforce that fact. You can set up daily or weekly talks, or even schedule FaceTime or video chats. When kids have your support to look forward to, it can help alleviate stress and concerns.
Build in accountability
Freshmen year is full of firsts. First time away from parents, responsibility of getting out of bed and to class on time, and now navigating the uncertainty of COVID-19. Before your child heads off to college, make sure she has a daily or weekly schedule she will maintain that includes study time. It can help your child take accountability and stay on track.
Also, help her realize her habits and what works best for her. For example, if she knows when she’s most productive — morning or afternoon — she can schedule her classes around that.
Utilize on-campus resources
Even if your child does well in the classroom setting, she may struggle with the lack of structure in college settings, especially if they transition to at-home or online learning. So make sure to identify available academic resources on campus. From tutors to professor office hours to career resources and more, it’s important to know what’s available before a problem arises.
In addition, look into mental health services her college offers. Many colleges have virtual support groups, as well as counselors and therapists to provide services when additional struggles arise.
At the end of the day, this situation is unique to anything our generation has ever experienced. We’re all going through it and suffering to a certain extent because of it.
“Some people can’t host the wedding of their dreams or get the college experience they expected or they have to wear a face shield at work,” said Dr. Cole. “Helping your teen understand that they’re not alone and you and others are experiencing the same frustration could offer her a bit of solace.”
For additional questions or to schedule an appointment in our Adolescent Medicine Center, call 330-543-8538.
Learn more about Akron Children’s COVID-19 response and resources available for families.