When students head off to college they experience a new found sense of independence. It is an exciting time, but also can bring forth feelings of uncertainty. As a parent, one of the best things you can do to help support your student is to create reliable and trusted channels of communication.
For pointers on how to successfully stay connected to your college student we turn to our good friends Nancy Billington and Lauren Lanham, Founders of Inspire Inc. Inspire offers programs founded on evidence-based research that focus on mental and emotional wellness. Nancy and Lauren suggest the following 10 Tips on how to initiate and extend conversations with your students in a way that they will feel safe to express their emotions:
Use direct and specific questions/statements that are 10 words or less.
Let your student complete his/her thoughts before responding.
Restate what you are hearing or ask your students a question to confirm that you understand.
Stay on topic and in the present.
Use a neutral/natural tone of voice.
Be constructive and compassionate.
Find common ground.
Express your feelings with simple “I” statements (I feel ______ when ______).
Take a breath and pause to gather your thoughts when needed.
Ask to continue the conversation at another time if you need to.
Nancy and Lauren also remind parents to talk during ‘good times’, not just when a serious matter, crisis or major decision is to be confronted. Establish your ability to listen, be empathetic, flexible and fair BEFORE the conversations occur where the stakes are high.
Nancy has held leadership roles in educational advocacy in Fairfield, CT for 20 years. She has established innovative school and community programs to address gender equity, athletic codes, and underage alcohol and substance use. She founded Fairfield’s Alcohol Use Prevention Task Force and co-founded Fairfield's Freshman Forum on Underage Drinking. She was an advisor to the First Selectman during establishment of the Town of Fairfield's Community Coalition on Alcohol and Health, now called Fairfield CARES, of which she is a founding member. Nancy has completed facilitator training in the nationally recognized Creating Lasting Family Connections program. She holds a B.S. in Communications from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
Lauren has been a yoga and meditation teacher for over 20 years. She holds certifications from The White Lotus Foundation and Amrit Yoga Foundation.
Lauren is a Reiki Master. She has also completed facilitator trainings in the Creating Lasting Family Connections Program and in the QPR - Suicide Prevention Program. Along with Nancy, Lauren was an advisor to the First Selectman during establishment of the Town of Fairfield's Community Coalition on Alcohol and Health, now called Fairfield CARES, of which she is a founding member. Lauren holds a B.A. in French Literature from George Washington University.
THE ART OF JOURNALING
Inspire also offers a workshop on how to "write away" stress. A student's life is full of emotional highs and lows and writing can be a powerful means of self-expression that can alleviate stress and enhance well-being. 30 years of nationally recognized research has connected the process of writing our feelings down on paper to better health: reducing heart rate and blood pressure, minimizing stress, strengthening the immune system and improving self-esteem.