At some point in your life, you will face boulders and barriers that seem impossible to go over, under, around, or through. But, in our day to day journeys, these challenges and struggles are the very things that make us who we are. Year after year, all these experiences – the good and the bad – help us to learn how to deal with what life throws our way. Now, if you’re an adult and have lived some life, you’re probably nodding your head in agreement.
On the other hand, students may not be able to see the forest for the trees and think a certain project or test or exam will make or break their future. Depending on their upbringing and support system, students can be fragile and it difficult to deal with and over these road bumps.
In fact, one of the biggest issues parents and educators face today is the rising levels of anxiety and depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), teens and college students are at crucial developmental points in their lives where they’re forming their identities and juggling work and school. The ADAA’s stats reveals just how serious these issues are:
6 Starting Statistics About Today’s Teens and College Students
- 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin developing by age 14
- 75% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin developing by age 24
- 8-10 years is the average delay between onset and intervention
- The 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24 is suicide
- 50% of students age 14 or older with a mental illness drop out of high school
- 70% of youth in state and local juvenile justice systems have a mental illness
As parents and educators, we have an obligation to be aware of what students today are experiencing, regardless of whether or not we think it’s valid. Here are some of the challenges and contributing factors that students my face throughout their academic careers:
- Feeling overwhelmed and disorganized
- Poor eating habits and lack of physical activity
- Failure to manage finances
- Failure in networking
- Unhealthy friendships or relationships
- Poor academic career (e.g., poor grades)
- Improper sleeping habits
- Skipping and/or failing classes
- Procrastinating and wasting time
8 Tips for Helping Students Overcome Challenges and Succeed
Below are some of valuable tips for students so that they can hopefully avoid some of the negative consequences of the concerns listed above. While neither the concerns nor the tips are exhaustive, we hope you and your kids or students can find practical comfort in them.
1) Reduce the Feeling of Homesickness
If they’re at boarding school or away at college or university, the reality of homesickness is often difficult for most students. Although it can be hard to get social, students should explore what their school has to offer, from clubs to sports as well as local community events. Finding like-minded people will make a world of difference! Of course, if they live close enough to home, taking a bus or train to visit every once in a while will help family seem not so far away. And with technology, getting on FaceTime or Skype is also a possibility.
2) Eating Right to Stay Fit and Healthy
Get a well-balanced diet and participate in physical activities. Most schools now offer healthier alternatives, so try opting for those ones. They can eat healthy during the week and then treat themselves on the weekend. When it comes to physical activity, school gyms are free or included with tuition. Finding a workout buddy is also helpful to stay accountable and healthy!
3) Healthy Sleeping Habits
Being a student is hard! So, the last thing they want to do is miss out on one of the most important aspects of a healthy life. Failing to get enough sleep has both physical and mental consequences that will directly affect the ability to perform in school and maintain good grades and healthy relationships. What’s more, sleep deprivation can actually increase risk of risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Practicing things such as deep breathing, not using smartphones one or two hours before bed, reading a book, or journaling can help students get into a routine that will help them fall asleep quicker.
4) Stop Skipping Class
Skipping class can be attractive because when students hit a certain age or grade, they can legally do that. Sometimes, if you really need a break and you have someone who can send you the notes, choosing to miss a class is okay. However, it’s easy to fall into the habit of skipping class under the guise of having more free time. Because in the long-run, students will likely have to make it up down the road under even more pressure from things like weightier tests, exams, and no-excuse deadlines. Suggest things like getting to bed early so they wake up on time or getting to know a one, two, or three students in each of their classes. This social aspect should help them get excited about going to class.
5) Unresolved Relationships
Faltering friendships are one thing, but unhealthy and unresolved relationships are another… They often result in bitterness, anger, or resentment and can take from a student’s ability to focus and learn effectively. We’re not saying relationships are off limits, only that it’s important to reiterate the main priorities of education. You can even be excited about their new relationship and get to know a bit about them, which will encourage your kids to communicate more openly about things can can sometimes feel “taboo.”
6) Use Your Resources (Wisely)
Whether we’re talking about mental health resources or the resources (e.g., money) they have to buy meals every day, students need to be aware of how to use these things. First, it’s helpful for them to keep a list handy with all the school services that they can lean on for help – from mental health counselors to study groups to academic tutors. Second, when it comes to money, sit down with your child or class as a whole and have a little session on how to budget their limited funds. If they want to get a job locally or on campus, encourage them to apply part-time and see if they can effectively budget not only their time but their budget (while offering guidance).
7) Find a Balance Between Academics and Social Life
Students in high school and college or university at an age where they have newfound responsibilities and freedoms. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”
So, whether it is a student’s freedom to party as much as they want, or play organized sports as much as they want, or skip as many classes as they want, finding a balance between between academics and social life is key. Arguably, the social life aspect of school is what helps shape a great deal of a student’s identity. Instead of creating an ultimatum of “academics or nothing,” suggest setting personal priorities that cover areas of academics and social life. Placing importance on both instead of demonizing one and not the other may help them have a flourishing academic career, not just a flourishing social life.
Coordinating time with friends also help. The rise of social media has resulted in students developing FOMO or the “fear of missing out.” So, instead of endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat feeds to see what your friends are doing, sync schedules as best as possible. Not only does it give students something to look forward to in the midst of heavy readings and schoolwork, but should help relieve some of that fear of missing out because they’re planning on doing things together.
8) Get Organized and Reduce Overwhelm
School, especially high school and post-secondary, is great time for students to learn how to manage their time and environment. However, if their rooms or desks as cluttered, this mess can cause stress. Studies have found that clutter can actually increase stress levels and anxiety. Take it from psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, who says that “messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives… Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.”
It may sound silly, but if a student’s living quarters and work space are messy or disorganized, it can have a significant impact on their ability to learn effectively and stay calm as they wade through this adventure called school.
We hope these tips help you and your children or students to overcome the physical and mental barriers they will likely face in throughout their academic careers and beyond. While it can be a stressful and uncertain time, try not to let the negative thoughts take over. With this new or reiterated awareness of student struggles, you can approach them with a positive mindset knowing that there are things each of you can do to succeed.
This guest post was written by Jane Collen, a passionate writer who lives and breathes on the internet. She is a tech-geek and loves to explore new opportunities. While Jane is not writing or ranting about the newest tech industry gossip, you can find her practicing yoga and photography, and making documentaries.