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As we send our kids back to college in these unparalleled times, we must expect some rocky beginnings. The transition to on-line learning, the lack of social interaction, and the missing out of professor-student relationships are all things that contribute to a thriving college experience (among others). With this new kind of temporary "normal", parents and students, alike, can manage the emotions that accompany the changes.
Parents, we are not new to feeling overwhelmed. We are guilty of falling victim to the circumstances of Covid, especially around the chaos of sending our kids back to college. We speak negatively. We blame the universities. We complain about the money involved for the quality of education. We display feeling exhausted with having to make decisions. We exemplify handling our emotions in all the wrong ways. We are caught in the whirl wind of COVID, in more ways than one.
But, when our students call with concerns, complaints, sadness, and feelings of helplessness, we sometimes feel like we do not have the emotional resources to lend them. This is where things can get better!
Our kids need us. And, we are responsible for and capable of supporting them. Period. Nineteen or twenty-three. It does not matter. Every human needs validation, encouragement and modeled resilience.
Our students have lived with uncertainty for months now. They are literally living day to day (some, on edge) with announcements, changes, and the need to adjust on-the-fly. In addition, they have felt our incertitude for months. After all, we have been struggling with some of the same feelings - sadness, conflicted, helpless, anger, disappointment. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our kids feel our struggles too, and, this is not fair to them as they give everything they have to focus and succeed during this strangeness.
They need more from us.
Our kids need us to speak statements of hope. They need to hear positivity in our voices. They need our encouragement to figure this out on their own (because every other student at every other university is having to do the same). They need us to laugh. They need us to simply ask "How can I help?". Our kids need support and strength from home.
This will be the most powerful motivator in terms of how they maneuver through Fall semester than anything else.
Use the mirror effect (and it is never too late to practice this). Pretend your student is looking into a mirror for some type of positive encouragement and motivation. What would the mirror say to your child? Perhaps - "I know this is one of the toughest situations you will ever be in, but you are all in it together. Talk to your hall mates. I bet they feel the same way." Or maybe - "I am sure your professors will be understanding." "The cafeteria people are having a hard time figuring this out and I bet they will somehow reimburse us for lost meals. Do not worry about this. Let us figure out how you can get food and we will work with the Bursar Office later." Or, simply- "What can I do to help you feel more secure right now?"
Our students do not need to struggle emotionally. We can help them by reminding ourselves.
We can bypass our own feelings about this semester, this YEAR, and this situation to help our students thrive. We are adults who can regulate our feelings. Our students may still be learning this skill and it is our job to help them develop resiliency and acceptance. Life as we all know it is full of disappointments, highs and lows, and unexpected changes. How we model managing LIFE is the truest indicator of how our kids will manage life.
Remember, you are the mirror.