Structure Is Essential When Learning Virtually
Support students in maintaining structure if they are attending college classes online. It’s essential that students maintain a schedule for getting up and getting dressed, do schoolwork in a separate designated area (if possible), and maintain boundaries between their downtime and their work time.
If students are learning from home, they may not have the same amount of structure as before because everything is happening on their computer screen. Time management can become more difficult when students no longer have a cohort of peers working alongside them.
It is also helpful for students to find time to get outside and step away from the screen by taking walk breaks or doing something creative. Socially, it’s great if students can maintain contact with friends, study together virtually, or watch the same Netflix series.
Even if students have a strong support system at home, it’s a loss to not be learning and socializing alongside friends.
When the World Becomes Too Much
It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also essential to know when to pause from stressful news. Students should be aware of how the news is making them feel and how much media they can consume. It can be helpful for everyone to step back and practice extra self-care when needed.
When a break is needed, it’s a good idea to watch a movie, read, or joke with friends. Parents can model this behavior and encourage their children to do the same. Such practices will build resiliency for the many stressors that come along with watching the news or receiving news via social media channels.
Signs That a Student May Be Struggling
It’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms of depression, the most common mental health challenge. These include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
- Unexplained aches and pains
A sudden drop in academic performance can be another sign that support is needed.
It’s important to acknowledge that some students may not have the resources at home to successfully engage in remote learning. This includes having a fast internet connection, a private space to attend class, and increased responsibility for siblings and sick parents. A loss of in-person community, mentors, and social supports can impact a student’s well-being beyond academics.
Learn About College Mental Health Services
It’s never too early to call the university’s student counseling center to ask about the range of services they provide. Make an appointment to talk with the counseling center director or another professional staff member.
College mental health services may be limited, so it’s important to see what may be available off-campus at a local counseling center or hospital. Many centers keep a list of convenient off-campus providers who work well with students.
If needed, contact your child’s college to determine their process for requesting accommodations.
There are a variety of accommodations that a college can make for a student. These include:
- Preferred seating
- Additional breaks
- Separate exam rooms
- Written exams instead of oral presentations
- Use of a digital recorder
- Deadline extensions
- Completing work at home/dorm room
Ideally, schools will provide appropriate resources and policies to students who may need a leave of absence or accommodations.
We encourage schools to prioritize resources for vulnerable student populations by understanding the potential need for extensions, reduced course loads, modified policies, housing accommodations, and culturally responsive therapeutic services.
If a Student Is Struggling, Get Help Immediately
If your child is showing signs of a possible mental health issue, prioritize getting help over the fear of tarnishing their transcript or reputation.
“Academic struggles can be wrongly attributed to a student “not trying” or “not working hard enough” when they are often a symptom or sign of mental health concerns,” says Caitlin Nevins, PhD, director of psychological services for McLean’s College Mental Health Program.
“Thankfully there seems to be increased acceptance of the priority placed on well-being, especially for college-age students.”
Many students need support in the form of therapy in which they will learn the skills needed to manage the symptoms related to a condition such as depression or anxiety.
For some students, a leave from school is needed to recover and get back on track. Each college has a policy about granting medical leave. Contact the student health center or the dean of students office to find out the procedure for taking a temporary leave of absence.
Purchasing tuition insurance is another factor to consider. It can ease financial stress in the event of a crisis and leave of absence.