Whether your student is a first year or senior, graduate student, non-traditional student, feels prepared or unprepared, college can be a stressful or overwhelming experience for them. For some students, feelings of stress and overwhelm may be temporary or prolonged throughout their duration of schooling. Your support, encouragement, and guidance can significantly impact their overall well-being and college experience.
Your student may experience many challenges throughout their college experience and their feelings will be valid. Although we never want to see our students upset, it is important hold space for your student to be upset and feel heard. Brene Brown has a great video about not silver lining bad situations. If your student talks about how they feel, just listen and be empathetic—that can be one of the most helpful things you do. Empathy can be hard, so please watch this short video to learn more.
Actively listening can involve eye contact, validating statements, reflecting back to the student what you are hearing, knodding of the head, or any other ways to communicate that you are hearing and understanding them. Before offering support and suggestions, it is very beneficial to practice active listening when your student is discussing their concerns.
Your student may experience self-doubt, guilt/shame, or worry about their abilities or shortcomings during college and some students experience this before attending school. Many students want to make their families proud for a variety of reasons and when they believe they are not living up to those standards, there mental health can decline. It will be most important for you to continue to validate your student and help them positively reflect on themselves. Your encouragement and reminder of their worth, abilities, and that they deserve to be in college can be encouraging.
Your student is often working very hard and managing multiple responsibilites, such as school, sports, work, clubs, organizations, and internships. Students often report difficulty finding time to take a break because they are consistently busy. Encourage them to find even small moments to take a break, such as sitting outside, going for a walk, and slowing down to take a breath. When they are visiting or spending time with you during a break, encourage them to find time to rest, slow down, and engage in connection.
We are still in a pandemic, so we should encourage physical distancing, but not social distancing. As a result of the pandemic, many students continue to feel isolated and disconnected within their relationships and friends. Encourage them to use phone calls, FaceTime or other video chats, join clubs and organizations, and attend various events on campus and within the community. That will help establish normalcy and consistency and reduce feelings of isolation.
The counseling center is will always be a support for your student! If your student is experiencing an urgent concern, please contact us at 515-271-3864. If they experience a mental health emergency after our office is closed, please call 911 or assist them in visiting the nearest hospital.