Mental Health and College: Self-regulation and Teens Part One
May 13, 2016

According to a 2011 study out of Harvard University, nearly half of America’s college students drop out before receiving a degree.  Reasons for dropping out range from financial concerns to relationship problems and mental health issues.  Unfortunately, many parents focus more on improving a child’s academic skills versus their student’s resolve set goals and execute daily behaviors to achieve those goals.  

Self-regulation, which is in part one’s ability to focus, plan, and execute targeted behaviors, is often a better predictor of academic outcomes than is IQ or grades.  A highly self-regulated student sets regular goals, keeps to a schedule, and has responses to anger, fear, anxiety, and disappointment pre-planned.

Developing sufficient self-regulation skills are critical for staying the course in college.  For example, a student without the internal support to create and stick to a nightly bedtime might develop problems with sleeping in and skipping morning classes.  Highly structured therapy programs such as Wilderness Programs, Therapeutic Boarding Schools, and Residential Treatment Centers (RTC’s) can help young people who struggle with self-regulation acquire these skills in order to be successful in college.  

According to a 2011 study out of Harvard University, nearly half of America’s college students drop out before receiving a degree.  Reasons for dropping out range from financial concerns to relationship problems and mental health issues.  Unfortunately, many parents focus more on improving a child’s academic skills versus their student’s resolve set goals and execute daily behaviors to achieve those goals.  

Self-regulation, which is in part one’s ability to focus, plan, and execute targeted behaviors, is often a better predictor of academic outcomes than is IQ or grades.  A highly self-regulated student sets regular goals, keeps to a schedule, and has responses to anger, fear, anxiety, and disappointment pre-planned.

Developing sufficient self-regulation skills are critical for staying the course in college.  For example, a student without the internal support to create and stick to a nightly bedtime might develop problems with sleeping in and skipping morning classes.  Highly structured therapy programs such as Wilderness Programs, Therapeutic Boarding Schools, and Residential Treatment Centers (RTC’s) can help young people who struggle with self-regulation acquire these skills in order to be successful in college.  

Video Games and “Screen Activities”

One danger of being on your own for the first time involves self-regulating your non-academic activities.  I remember being in college and seeing the influence of video games on study habits directly.  The first Nintendo home game systems had just come out and my dorm mates next door lacked the skills to turn the games off when class began.  I distinctly remember telling my dorm mates that class was about to begin, but they were too involved in their game of Super Mario Brothers to be bothered with classes.  Both failed out by the end of the first semester.

A better approach would be to regulate your video game activities by setting aside a pre-determined amount of time for game play each week.  A parent can help their rising college freshman with this task.  

Ask your student, “How many hours of studying each day will it take to be successful at college?”

Then help your student by assisting them with a schedule for each day with their classes and study time required to be successful.  After the important items are added including meals and time for physical activity, then ask your student how much time is reasonable for screen activities like X-box, texting, TV, and so on.  Encourage your student to limit time for these activities by putting them in a schedule and keeping to it.

You can help your child before college by having them set up a similar schedule at home and then supporting their efforts to stick to it.  Allow your student to feel proud when they stuck to the schedule, and also allow them to feel bad then they went over their allotted time for recreation and online activities.  Have a discussion with your child about how they can ensure sticking to a schedule, and what they can do if they get off track.

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