By Amber Bennett, Counseling Services
The modern day interpretation of the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” suggests that an entire community of people must interact with children for them to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. And, yes, while technically Michigan Tech students are now young adults, we realize the importance of creating an inclusive, caring environment for our students to thrive. As a counseling professional, I know that the years spent in college are typically among some of the most tumultuous times an individual experiences in their lifetime. Normalizing these stressors and validating the feelings that come with these experiences is a simple, but critical component that families can provide.
We find many students begin to struggle with confidence, sadness, isolation, and academic distress between weeks four to seven. This is typically when their first exams are scheduled, and it may be the point when material in classes is more challenging than anticipated. First year and transfer students are not always prepared for the difficulty of the course material and exams, and therefore may receive lower grades than anticipated. Sleep schedules and healthy diets are often sacrificed to complete homework and study for the next round of exams.
Families are encouraged to keep a constant dialogue going with their students via regular texts, calls, and video chats. Initiating an open and honest conversation with your student about how they are doing and encouraging them to let you know how they are handling the stressors of college life may set the stage for later conversations when they are struggling. Here are a few questions to help jumpstart those conversations.
How are you sleeping?
How is your appetite? Are you finding enough to eat in the dining hall?
Tell me about the best part of the semester: What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far? What is your favorite part of the day?
Signs of distress may include:
Difficulty getting to class or completing academic work.
Difficulty falling or staying asleep, trouble getting out of bed, forgetting to eat, lack of appetite, eating too much or too little, or facing challenges to complete the daily activities necessary to take care of themselves (showering, brushing teeth, doing laundry, etc.).
Difficulty feeling connected to others, believing everyone else is making friends more easily than they are and expressing a lack of belonging on-campus.
You know your student best. If you feel their behavior has changed significantly or you have cause for concern, encourage them to make an appointment with Michigan Tech’s Counseling Services or you may use the Report a Concern tool to express your concerns to us. We are happy to assist.