Supporting students through this difficult time
There’s a lot of unknown right now at The Mount and in the world. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, especially for students. Below are some tips and thoughts on how to help your student through this ambiguity and transition that I received from a collegue at Gonzaga University:
1. Encourage your student to take care of their health.
Being active at least three days a week can really help elevate their mood. Encourage them to select a variety of nutritious foods, particularly during high-stress times.
2. Help your student maintain healthy sleeping habits.
Sleep is something that most students would say they don’t get enough of. Help your student maintain healthy sleeping habits by creating a sleep schedule and reminding them of these times. A sleep schedule means waking up and sleeping at the same time every day – even on weekends. We hear a lot of students talk about not sleeping well at home because they usually don’t have a reason to get up. Holding to this sleep schedule can create better wellness and improve overall well-being. Consider making your own sleep schedule so that you and your student can hold each other accountable.
3. Listen openly to your student without judgment.
As a parent, it can be easy to want to give your student advice. However, sometimes they might not want to listen to what you have to say even if it is the right answer. Instead, they may need to come to a solution on their own. There’s a lot of unknown for everyone at the college right now and it might just help for your student to voice their anxiety and questions out loud. Listening to your student openly and affirming their experiences can be a way to offer support even if it feels like you aren’t helping solve the problem. It might also be useful for your student if you ask them what you can do when they are stressed to help them.
4. Act as a positive-thinking role model for your student.
Feeling stressed can be contagious, and this can work both ways between you and your student. By looking at the brighter side of a situation and staying calm when interacting with your student this can also help reduce their own stress. If you can find the time to take care of yourself and maintain a positive attitude, your student will believe that they can do the same.
5. Support your student in creating SMART goals.
When school feels overwhelming, especially with so many unknowns, your student might feel like it is impossible to complete all of the work they’ve got to do. However, goal-setting is a great way for them to realistically accomplish their tasks on time. Consider supporting your student in identifying their SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals and encourage them to continue working towards their goals even from afar. Little steps can take them a long way!
6. Access local medical and mental health providers.
It’s important for your students to be proactive in thinking about their medical and mental health needs. Have they been regularly seeing someone at The Mount that they now might need at home? Encourage your students to set up meetings or explore the possibility in preparation for online classes. The hope is that they wouldn’t need to use them yet, but these are good practices for the summer as well.
7. Encourage your student to stay on top of academics and in touch with professors.
Encourage your student to take a look at their syllabi from now to the end of the semester, map out their assignments, then break things up and start them early. It’s a lot easier to get started on a paper when you start to do tiny pieces of it here and there, and by getting a head start on it, you won’t be scrambling at the last second, pulling an all-nighter to finish that last assignment. Online classes can be structured very different and requires more self-accountability. Encourage your students to speak with their professors if they have concerns about this new format.
8. Encourage social distancing but not social cut-offs.
While social distancing is recommended right now, it’s important for your student to stay in contact with their support system. Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls aren’t just for classes. Encourage your student to keep in touch with friends, roommates, and anyone else from The Mount to keep community going. These social interactions can provide some continuity for students and can help them still feel connected to The Mount. Additionally, this will be helpful for seniors as they miss some of their final moments at MSMC. There might be some special moments they miss out on campus, it’s not their last time here or their last time seeing their friends. Many more memories will still be created and share on and off campus.
9. Talk with someone at The Mount
If you’re still concerned about your student, feel free to have them set up a phone conversation with Counseling Services by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 845-569-3115. Your students can also contact Father Greg Fluet at email@example.com. We can talk about healthy habits, utilizing resources, and how to work through all this stress and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus and online classes.
Director of Parent Engagement at Mount Saint Mary College