Life as we know it has done a complete turnaround. Covid-19 has changed the way we live and interact, and there is little doubt that things won’t go back to normal for a while, if ever. Everyone is feeling a bit uneasy. If you’re a parent of a university student, you’re probably worried about how to help them cope with everything that’s happening.
Students, possibly more so than other sectors of society, have very active social lives. Their days – whether learning or just having fun – are governed by social interaction. It’s also worth remembering that for many of them, ‘rooming’ in at home after living independently in student digz, is possibly harder than expected and something they need to get used to all over again (as do you!).
While initially, many students have enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in, watch TV and play video games… chances are, they are now beginning to really feel the effects of lockdown.
Covid-19 coping skills for students
Aren’t we all you say? But here’s the thing: young adults aged between 18 and 25 are more susceptible to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. So how can you as a parent help your college-aged child feel more secure?
Try encouraging students during Covid-19 in these ways:
1. Structure gives stability
Students may crave freedom, but at this time what they actually thrive on is structure. Structure gives a sense of stability in a world that feels increasingly unstable. Encourage consistent times to go to bed and wake up (so avoid all-night Netflix binges). Maintain regular meal times. Help them find a quiet, safe space where they can keep up with their studies.
2. Physical Health
Physical health should be a top concern right now, as a strong immune system is vital when it comes to fighting disease. Provide healthy, nutritious foods and if you can, encourage your student to take vitamin supplements. Try not to offer too much sugary or fatty junk food – but don’t outlaw it entirely. Everyone needs a little treat once in a while.
While South Africa’s early lockdown laws make exercising outside limiting, you can still encourage other forms of physical activity. There are creative ways to work out at home, and many trainers are now offering free online classes.
3. Pleasurable activities
This is a big one for many students as quarantine means that most of our little daily pleasures have been taken away – no meeting a friend for lunch, no going to the movies, no nights out drinking and dancing. Even something as simple as a cup of takeaway coffee is not an option!
You can help students cope with lockdown by suggesting and encouraging activities that bring happiness into their lives. Things like regular video calls with friends, playing a musical instrument, getting creative with arts and crafts, and cooking and baking as a family are all activities that can be done safely indoors.
Hope for the future
We are all feeling a bit fragile and fearful right now, but if you’re feeling negative, try not to dump your worries onto your child. For the sake of mental health, it’s so important that we all maintain a sense of hope for the future.
Speak to your young student honestly about your concerns, but offer a solution-based perspective. Let them know that things will get better, but not if they give up on hope. In this time of crisis, they (and you) should carry on doing the ‘right thing’ – i.e. keeping up with any work and studying that they can, reaching out to friends, and maintaining as much structure as possible.
Above all, communicate. Let them know that they can reach out to you, but also let them know that if they need space, that’s OK too. This pandemic is like nothing we’ve faced in our lifetime. But the silver lining is that we’re all in it together, and we can help each other cope.