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How to Support Your College Student and Reduce Virus-Related Stress

How to Support Your College Student and Reduce Virus-Related Stress

Two college students learning while keeping social distance

At the start of September, it finally happened. We moved our teen into his freshman dorm.

My wife and I are especially proud of our son, Court, and of all of the 2020 grads. After one of the most bizarre school years on record, you guys made it! Freshman year in college looks much different from what anyone could have imagined, but I know you all will work hard and have an amazing college experience.

Despite the confidence my wife and I have in our son’s ability to make good decisions, we also have to acknowledge that our anxiety is a bit higher than is typical, due to COVID-19. When we text Court to say stay safe, which we probably do too often, we can well imagine that he is rolling his eyes and is slightly annoyed.

It can be difficult to set aside parental worries and avoid imposing adult anxieties onto our college-age children when the world is in crisis. An easy way to calm one’s nerves is simply to ask your freshman how he or she is doing and then let your child speak. Some kids will have a lot to say, and others will respond with a one-word answer. Follow your son or daughter’s lead, and avoid lecturing about proper behavior.

The goal of any good interaction is to have a dialogue. Once the conversation begins, ask specific questions that will calm your nerves. Inquiries about college life, such as about how the dining hall is enforcing social distancing and if students wear masks at the campus gym, are neutral comments that can keep the conversation flowing.

Also, have practical discussions. College guidelines regarding COVID-19 protocols shift frequently as the course of the virus changes. Encourage your child to stay current by checking the school’s website for updates regarding expectations. Most notably, all students should be aware of shifting residential rules. Students are divided on how to stay safe. Some are even reporting their peers for virus violations, and the consequences range from a slap on the wrist to being dismissed.

Lastly, map out a plan in case a crisis presents. Students should know what to do if they think they might be ill, including who to call, where to go and how to avoid infecting others. Students should also have a strategy if school shuts down. Being prepared will ease everyone’s tension in case something unfortunate occurs.

It can be easy to get caught up in pandemic pandemonium. Part of the college experience is having spontaneous gatherings, engaging in late-night conversations and exploring one’s surroundings, but for this year, that looks different. Parents, trust you have raised a smart child who makes good decisions.

Good luck to Court, and his best friends: Ben, Henry, Hugh, Jon, Max, Will and the rest of the class of 2020! It’s going to be fun to watch you succeed. Be safe, have fun and study hard!

Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Visit him online at ed-psy.com.

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Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator.

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