Thanksgiving weekend. Hungry college students are storming home with bags of laundry, little sleep, and lots of pending stress..
"Like deer in headlights" is how I describe the college vibe on campuses the Monday after Thanksgiving. Kids are down to the last 2-3 weeks of the semester with a ton of work to do. Think of the "psychological flu of stress/anxiety" spreading across campuses.
Parents, a college kid's stress level peaks this time of the semester! Especially for first year college kids who have never been through it before. Pressure to finish papers and prep for finals is mixed with anticipation for winter break.
Students are tested but NOT graded on key skills: time management, organization, stress management, self-advocacy, resilience, and more. Lots of college kids (like most people) minimize self-care during a stress spike. At this critical time many students miss or cancel appointments with helpful campus resources (counseling centers, advisors), discontinue exercise, and maintain terrible sleep habits.
Late November is also a time when students struggling academically seek a Medical Leave of Absence (“MLOA”) or petition for a course withdraw.
While at home over Thanksgiving you may observe your student express stress and anxiety through language reflective of low confidence and a bleak semester outcome. Statements like, “I should have gotten it done earlier..” “I can’t do it..” “I haven’t been to class..” and “There’s no way I can pass..” are common.
Here are 5 tips on how you can help them over Thanksgiving break to prep for the final stretch of the semester!
1. Encourage the Big Skills. Stressful experiences like this suck for college kids. But, there is opportunity in the midst of struggle. Resilience, self-confidence, and self-efficacy are critical skills for college students to develop. These are best gained by persevering through stressful circumstances.
2. Coach them. Our tendency as parents is to advise our children. Remember: College life is a critical experience for students to develop confidence in effective problem solving and decision making. Don’t immediately advise them on what to do. Help your student develop problem solving confidence by supportively challenging him or her to determine the best way to handle stressful experiences.
3. Highlight their strengths. In times of stress and struggle people often perceive that their level of anxiety/stress is greater than their capacity to cope. This occurs in part because of the tendency to fill our minds with negativity while minimizing positive attributes. Remind your student to tap into their strengths.
4. Encourage then to approach. Anxiety and stress triggers a set of decisions: fight (approach), flight (avoid), or freeze. Students often choose to avoid scheduling with a professor who teaches a class in which they are not performing well. Encourage your student to think beyond their academic status and focus on the benefit of developing assertiveness, problem solving skills, and pushing through fear.
5. Prioritize stress management practices. When stress increases, self-care usually decreases. College kids minimize pro-healthy activities during the final weeks of the semester. Peak performance of any type is grounded in mindful planning and commitment to exercise, eating well, and sleep!
Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving weekend!
Did you college student have a bad fall semester? Dr. Joel’s College BounceBack Workshop is Monday 1/6. For more details and registration click here: https://www.drjoelingersoll.com/college-bounceback