Below you'll find two articles about supporting your student over the holidays. The first is written by Lisa Wold, the director of the MU Student Counseling Center, and the second is written by Christy Martin, Assistant Director of Housing and Academic Support. We hope you'll find these tips helpful as you welcome your student home for Christmas break.
Six tips for welcoming your student home this Christmas
The upcoming Christmas break is a wonderful opportunity for you to reconnect with your student after a busy semester at school. Life at Multnomah can be challenging as students balance the demands of academics, work, and relationships. For some students, this challenge feels difficult but manageable; for others, it may feel a bit overwhelming.
Coming home after an intense semester can also be challenging as students and parents navigate the changes that are occurring in their relationship. For many parents, it can be difficult to know how to support their student while at the same time allowing them to develop greater independence.
Here are a few practical ways to help:
Ask open-ended questions. Express interest in and ask questions about what your student has learned and how they are doing. Listen non-judgmentally and focus on working to understand where your student is coming from. Be a safe person for your student to share with openly.
- Expect change. Your student experienced many opportunities to grow and change during the past semester. They may not be quite the way you remembered them. Allow your student space to be different and celebrate the ways in which they have grown.
- Highlight your student’s strengths. Encourage them regarding the things they accomplished and the challenges they overcame this semester. Let them know how proud you are of them. Encouragement from you can go a long way!
- Pay attention to warning signs. Many mental health issues first emerge during early adulthood and can be brought on or exacerbated by stress. Be aware of any changes in behavior that are concerning, such as expressions of hopelessness, low mood, increased anxiety, significant changes in weight, or indications of self-harm.
- Encourage your student to seek support. If you notice your student is struggling, sit down and share your concerns with them in a supportive, non-judgmental manner. Then work together to discuss options for additional support.
- Enjoy your student. Finally, take some time over the busy Christmas season to enjoy time with your student. Celebrate all that God has done and is continuing to do in their life!
Wishing you a merry Christmas,
Director, MU Student Counseling Center
Five ways to help a discouraged student during the break
As the semester comes to a close, many students are discovering whether or not they were able to meet the academic expectations they had of themselves. Some may have done better academically than they thought they would, but many will feel they did worse.
Here are five helpful things you can do for your student over the break if they ended the term feeling discouraged:
Normalize the experience. College and grad school is HARD! Remind them that it’s likely they have peers who feel discouraged too. Encourage them to reach out to friends and talk about how they feel.
- Promote a growth mind-set rather than a fixed one. It’s easy for us as humans to talk in very concrete terms to ourselves about our abilities. We may tell ourselves things like, “I can’t write” or “I’m not good at math.” While these may be legitimately more difficult for one student than the next, it is important to acknowledge that we are all capable of growth and learning. Sometimes we learn without even realizing it.
- Look at the positive. Because we are all capable of learning, it is likely that your student is, even in the smallest of ways, more prepared to succeed next term than they were for this current term! They have one more semester under their belts, which helps them understand their environment better and what it takes to succeed. Help them be aware of these new advantages!
- Direct them to helpful resources. If they are confused about their major, or career direction, have them check in with Career Services for free career coaching.
- Encourage self-efficacy in your student. If you hear your student giving external forces (such as a particular teacher or one particular event) credit for his/her perceived success or failure, validate the challenge or positive influence that factor had, but ask good questions about how your student chose to respond as well. Try to foster in your student a healthy willingness to own their own reactions and behaviors, both in their triumphs and their struggles.
- Invite them to partner with us. Encourage your student to use the semester break to partner with Multnomah’s Student Success Center and work on strategies for success in the spring term EARLY! We are open over the break (except for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day). We can meet with your student in person, by phone, or by video chat to discuss their goals, their perceptions of the previous term, and their strategy for feeling better about their success in the new semester!
Assistant Director of Housing and Academic Support