There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of distraction happening in South Africa at the moment, from the #Fees Must Fall protests to political unrest and taxi violence. Whatever your stance on these matters, when you’re a student in the middle of it all, it can be hard to stay focused. Here’s how to keep your college-going kid on track, regardless of what’s going on around them:
Talk about it
Whether you as a parent live nearby or not, it’s easy to keep an eye on the news. Stay informed about what’s going on in the area where your child is living and/or studying, and speak to them about it.
It’s not really about who’s right or wrong though, although of course you can discuss opinions on the matter (note: try asking them their opinion before you tell them yours). The point is to find out how they’re experiencing it and how it’s affecting them. Being in the middle of ongoing violence is scary for everyone, and simply acknowledging that can go a long way towards helping them cope.
Use events as a teaching tool to encourage positive action
Passion is a powerful force and it can be used positively or negatively not only to change the world, but also to discover more about who you are as an individual, and to learn and grow. If they do support any particular cause, try to encourage them to find constructive ways to show that, rather than destructive ones.
Also, and preferably without being confrontational, it’s worth gently pointing out that there is always another perspective, which can sometimes be hard to see when you feel strongly about something. Spending even a short time imagining how it looks from the other side can be mind-expanding. Plus a balanced viewpoint is almost always more likely to achieve change for the better.
Remind them why they’re there
Think back to when you (hopefully) originally discussed what they would study, and gently remind them of their ideas and plans at that time. Keeping in mind why they’re doing something can be hugely motivating, so ask them how what they’ve learned so far has helped them clarify their goals and dreams. Have those goals perhaps changed and if so, what are their new ones?
Also remember that what they’ve learned is most likely not just about what they’re studying, but also about their experience of the wider college culture and the people they have met or otherwise been exposed to.
Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help make things easier for them as they find their way between maintaining their course of study and discovering who they are by participating fully in student life. Let them know that you’re proud of them and are there for them if they’d like to talk anything through.
If they have younger siblings who look up to them, or a mentor who they look up to themselves, encourage them to talk to them too. Feeling connected to those they care about can help enormously to keep them on track.
As a general rule, it’s worth bearing in mind that offering something positive is much more effective than berating them for not doing what you expect. So remind them of who they are and what dreams they’re moving towards, as you figure out how you can encourage and inspire them to be the best they can be.