For many college students, being away at school isn’t easy. Often, they are subjected to incredible amounts of stress, aren’t getting enough sleep, and might not be eating right. And, on top of that, they may also be very lonely.
It’s hard to imagine your child feeling lonely, especially when they are going to classes and living in dorms. But just because they are surrounded by people, that doesn’t mean they have forged meaningful connections.
Depression in College Students
The college experience is often your child’s first trip out into the world alone, and that is a serious adjustment. In fact, the magnitude of the change can lead to an increased risk for depression (a much higher risk that the average, based on some studies), regardless of whether they have struggled with it in the past or not.
Depression is a mood disorder. While it is fairly common, it is always a serious condition. Depression has the ability to affect how your child thinks and feels, and can have a significant impact on their daily lives. It can be harder to focus, making studying incredibly difficult, and has the potential to affect their academic and social lives, as well as their job and even their diet and sleep.
It is important to note that depression doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, so, if your child is battling depression, there is no guarantee that those specific life areas will be affected.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of depression vary from one individual to the next. However, there are things you can look out for to make sure your child is adjusting well to college life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some of the more common symptoms include an unshakeable feeling of sadness or hopelessness. There can also be feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or a generally pessimistic perspective on life. It is also common to see them withdrawing from activities they previously enjoyed, such as hobbies or fitness activities. This can be coupled with decreased energy or fatigue.
Some people dealing with depression are more irritable, and may even seem angry and aggressive. Depression can also lead to physical symptoms, such as aches, pains, headaches, and digestive issues.
There are many other ways for depression to manifest, so it is important to note any changes in your child’s personality or activities as these could be signs of depression.
What You Can Do
If you suspect your child may be depressed, it is important to take action. Often, even severe cases of depression can be treated. Seeking out the assistance of an appropriate medical professional can help them explore their options based on the severity of their symptoms and potential root causes.
As a parent, you can also make sure to extend your support during this challenging time in your college student’s life. Make sure they know you are available if they need someone to talk to, and that you care about them deeply.
If possible, try to encourage them to be active, as exercise can be an effective way to manage the symptoms of depression. Also, make sure they are setting realistic goals for their college experience. Remind them not to intentionally isolate themselves, as this can make depression more challenging to manage. While you might not be able to do anything about the activities that make up their day-to-day, there are things you can do to make sure they know you are there for them and are willing to offer support.
One of the easiest things you can do is to create a care package.
Why a Care Package?
Care packages can serve a lot of functions. First, they are a demonstration that your child was on your mind. Second, they show that you wanted to do something to brighten their day. And third, they can be sent for any occasion. So while we mention they can help if your child is feeling depressed, that is not the only time you can send one!
A care package can serve as a pleasant surprise, especially when they are sent for no particular occasion. It also lets them know that their parents haven’t forgotten about them (like you ever could!) when they are feeling disconnected from the ones they love during one of the most stressful times in their young lives.
Some other times you can send your college student a care package are:
- Before a big exam or exam week
- Long weekends
- As a celebration for a good test score or achieving something they set their mind to (i.e. being selected as President of a club or joining a new organization)
- After a breakup
- When they simply miss home
What it comes down to, is a care package is a symbol that lets them know you care. And sometimes even the smallest gestures can be very reassuring during times of change.
How to Create a Care Package
Creating a care package is actually loads of fun! Why you may ask. Because it gives you an opportunity to acknowledge all of your child’s idiosyncrasies that you love and creates an excellent opportunity to be a little silly while still doing something incredibly meaningful.
There are a lot of ways to go about creating a care package. You can choose a selection of some of their favorite treats, pick a theme and use it as a guide, or help them prepare for an upcoming change, like a shift in seasons. Really, the options for creating a care package are endless, and they can be done even if you have very little time and a tiny budget.
To help you get some ideas, here are some of our favorite approaches for curating a care package.
The “Dollar Store” Run
For the care package creator on a budget, consider making a run to the dollar store and seeing how far your money can go!
Dollar stores are full of funny, quirky, and silly items, as well as some basics that can be very useful. So, take a trip through the aisles and see what inspires you.
For example, many dollar stores have greeting card sections, so choose either a blank card or something in the “Thinking of You” category. Make sure it has room to add a personalized message so that you can say something directly to your college student along with the box of treats and trinkets.
You can also add something unexpected, like some glow stick bracelets or bottles of bubbles (try not to smile when you are blowing bubbles, I dare you!), and mix in some useful items like pens and pencils with fun designs or unique colors.
Otherwise, see what catches your attention and add it to the cart. Hey, each item is only a dollar, so feel free to have some fun!
You Forgot These!
This is a care package about function that can also be fun. Often, the foundation of this box involves covering certain basics, like toiletries and socks (do you really think your college student is running to the store for new socks? Probably not!). Even though the contents aren’t exciting by nature, that doesn’t mean you can’t inject some personality.
Pick items in their favorite colors, scents or flavors. Throw in some designed especially for comfort or stress relief, like roll-on headache relief aromatherapy, a funny or motivational stress ball, or some fuzzy slippers. And feel free to add a candy treat or two for those times when chocolate is truly the only answer.
Sometimes, the simple gift of entertainment can help make the day feel more manageable and can make for an excellent care package theme. Start with a copy of their favorite movie (if they have access to a Blu-Ray or DVD player) or a gift card for a digital download service like Vudu. And make sure to include some treats for the movie for good measure!
Then, add a gift card for a restaurant near your child’s campus (because sometimes it’s good to just get off campus) and make sure there is enough money available so they can invite a friend out without anyone having to sweat the bill, and tuck it into a greeting card with a note telling them to take a night off and get some good eats.
You Are My Sunshine
Now, this isn’t necessarily a sentiment you have to articulate. Instead, you can imply it with the clever, and abundant, use of the color yellow. That’s right! Fill the box to the brim with anything that screams yellow. Then, when they open the box, they will get the message through the color alone.
But why yellow? Because it is traditionally associated with happiness. So, unless you know your child hates yellow, then consider it a great option for bringing a smile.
When Do I Send It?
So, now that you have the care package boxed and ready to go, when’s the best time to send it? Actually, the answer is simple.
SEND IT NOW!
You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to show your college student you care. In fact, by sending it for no particular reason at all, it might make a bigger impact.
So, pack it into the care, head to the local post office or shipping center, and get that sucker in the mail. Then, just sit back and wait for the phone call that lets you know it arrived.
And, once that one has reached its destination, you can start planning for your next one. Because it is always the right time to brighten your child’s day.
Have you sent a care package before? Was it for something we didn't mention? If so, comment below to share your ideas on what to include and when to send it!