Seeing your kid off to college for the first time? Who's going to be the bigger emotional mess — you or your child?

Either way, mental health experts in New Jersey want you to know that these feelings are completely normal. You're one of countless residents going through the same thing, and it can help to talk to someone — even your child — to get through the major change.

"This is a huge transition that can be filled with distress, loss, nostalgia. Let yourself feel it," said Stephanie Marcello, chief psychologist with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care. "Typically, within a month or two, you will notice adjusting to this transition."

For many parents, Marcello said, sending a kid off to college may be their opportunity to prioritize themselves again.

"And that's okay if you don't know what that means. Connect with others who have or are going through similar transitions," she said.

Robin Solbach, director of health and counseling at Georgian Court University, hears plenty from the guardians of first-year college students — it's uncharted territory for folks, some of whom never attended college themselves.

"They're wanting to support their children, but they're not exactly sure how," Solbach said. "I'm always happy to hear concerns from a loved one, about a student. I would much rather have somebody reach out, than not."

Solbach advises parents to talk to their kids now, before they start living on campus, about how they'll communicate when they're away. And, she said, parents should remind themselves that their children will make mistakes — and that's OK.

It's the first-year students who are being thrown into a completely new physical environment, to go along with any anxiety about living away from home for possibly the first time in their lives.

The best thing a college student can do when they start to notice they're feeling overwhelmed is to reach out early, Solbach said.

"It's easier to address an issue when it's small rather than waiting for the issue to magically go away on its own — only to find the little issue becomes a huge problem later," she said.

Dozens of colleges and universities across New Jersey are partnered this year with the online platform Uwill, which offers 24/7 mental health supports to students.

Solbach's tips for students include making a schedule and sticking to it, learning about campus resources, and getting connected by joining a club and/or getting to know their advisor and peers.

"I always recommend to students that they get to know at least one person in each class and get that person's contact information," Solbach said.

Commuters, meanwhile, may want to avoid just going from car to class each day — they should spend time in common gathering areas such as the student center, Solbach said.

"You don't even have to put your whole foot in the pool. Just put a toe in the pool and try it out," Solbach said.

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