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Supporting Your Student Through Change

As we make an effort to socially distance ourselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of us are experiencing changes to our daily routines. For students, it can be especially challenging to manage multiple changes at once, and everyone adjusts to change differently. As your student navigates the rest of the semester, here are some tips to support them.

Listen and ask questions

Many students are feeling uncertain right now. They may be disappointed about canceled events and activities, or not being able to finish out their year on campus. Some may be feeling disconnected from friends and roommates that they normally see every day. Others may be struggling to adjust to online classes, or feel a loss of freedom with spending more time in their rooms or at home.

Right now, it can be helpful to have a space where your student can share how they are feeling. Ask open-ended questions to give your student an opportunity to talk things out. Empathize and validate their feelings. Let them know that everyone manages change differently, and it can take time to adapt to new routines and environments.

Focus on routines

Routines give us structure. They also provide comfort and a level of predictability to our lives. Recent changes have disrupted many of your student’s routines, but that doesn’t mean they should let them go completely.

Encourage your student to modify and stick to their daily routines as much as possible, or create new routines to fit their new schedule and environment. They could block out specific times for coursework or stick to their previous class schedule as much as possible. If your student usually has lunch with friends, they could try to recreate a variation of that routine by scheduling video chats and virtually “meet up” for lunch as they normally would in person.

If your student has moved back home, keep in mind that their schedule and routines may look different from others in your household. Maybe they do their best studying late at night, or are used to taking naps after class. Unless their routines are disrupting others, give them space to maintain what works for them. Otherwise, involve your student in creating structure and problem solving to figure out new routines and systems that work for everyone.

Re-establish expectations

Since your student has moved out, the expectations may not be clear when it comes to helping out with household responsibilities while they are home. Discuss expectations when it comes to laundry, dishes and other household chores.

As we recreate our routines with more time at home, talk about how often you’d like to spend time together. Maybe it’s having dinner together, or participating in a family activity once a week. It’s okay if your student wants some time to themselves, and it’s sometimes necessary to help them decompress from school. Having this discussion can help ensure everyone is on the same page.

Navigate conflicts

During uncertain times, your student may need to have important conversations with you, especially if things have not been going well. Sometimes this can lead to conflict. While most people think conflict is a negative thing, it’s very normal and can result in growth, learning and better understanding. Here are some things you can do that lead to a healthy, positive experience if you find yourself in conflict with your student:

  • In a conversation, allow your student to share their point of view without interrupting. Try to listen without judgement.
  • What you mean to say is not always what the other person hears—think about the intent and impact of your message. If you’re not sure what your student’s intent is during the conversation, let them know what you’re hearing and ask if that is what they meant.
  • When sharing your point of view, speak from your perspective. In turn, try to see things from your student’s perspective as well, rather than make assumptions.
  • When agreement is not possible, allow for multiple truths.

Maintaining our well-being can help the mind and body feel more regulated through times of change. Talk with your student about the importance of finding balance and taking care of their health. This can include:

  • Getting a consistent amount of sleep (7–9 hours per night for college-aged students)
  • Eating regular, balanced meals
  • Staying active
  • Finding time to relax
  • Staying connected with friends and family

If it ever feels like too much for your student, the Counseling Center can help online or over the phone (914-251-6390).

Getting used to changes in our lives can take time, and everyone’s timeline looks different. Remember that the Office of Community Engagement is here to support you at every step of the way, and can help connect you to the right resources on campus.