College Kids Feel the Stress

Today’s New York Times ran a front-page story about how  college freshmen are feeling a record level of stress.  “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010”  surveyed more than 200,000 incoming full-time students, and the percentage rating themselves as below average in mental health rose over past years while those who said their emotional health was above average fell to 52% from 64% in 1985. Campus counselors say this is no surprise: They frequently see students who are depressed, under stress and even using psychiatric medication.

The economy has only added to the stress, both because of kids’ concerns about their parents’ financial scenarios but also due to their own college debt — more are having to take out loans —  and their job prospects upon graduation.

The findings are ironic in their timing, in a way, given the uproar recently over how Dragon Moms pressure their kids to succeeed. Even without such pressure, our kids feel stress. 

We’ve been fortunate with our college-age son who, bless him, has one of those “up” personalities and rarely seems bothered by much of anything. But next year, upon graduation, he will be joining the ranks of those looking for a full-time job. He’s a step ahead in many ways, due to a series of internships and his particular academic focus — but, who knows? If his job search hits a dead end, how can he not feel stressed?

What do you do, as parents, to help your kids through stressful situations?