Helping your Child Transition to University


Written by Matthew Gardner, M.Ed, RCC , who is one of our SMUS personal counsellors.

The stress of adjusting to university or college is very real for any 16 to 25 year-old, especially since this giant step coincides with the transition from adolescence to adulthood. For students with a mental-health or addiction issue, this rite of passage is particularly challenging, and the parents of such students, no longer able to keep a watchful eye on their child, are bound to feel especially anxious.

Fortunately, there are ways in which these parents can mitigate some of that stress:

  • Prepare early, as early as 16 years old;
  • Build in a transition period during which the student takes progressively greater responsibility for their medications and for self-monitoring of their mental health;
  •  Help the student to grasp a firm understanding of their diagnosis, the side effects of their medication, and the early signs of relapse;
  • Make sure they have a few simple strategies to resort to when under stress, or when relapse seems imminent;
  • Coach them through practical skills such as establishing a study routine, ensuring a good night’s sleep, and learning how to self-distract during stressful situations;
  •  When choosing a school, compare and contrast the services each institution offers around mental health and disabilities;
  • Have the student register at the disability office or health service of their chosen institution. This allows for the transfer of relevant medical/disability records. Plus, these professionals can offer key assistance, such as helping the student to set and maintain a manageable schedule.

At some point, every parent has to relinquish control of their child’s life, and this can constitute a tough challenge, especially when mental health issues are involved. The most important thing of all is to ensure that the lines of communication remain open.

There was an interesting article in the Globe and Mail last month on the topic of preparing for the transition to university. Click here to read it. University Counselling has planned a post-secondary transition event on May 20, 2015 for all grade 12 students and parents. Click here to read about last year’s event.


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