Published: Dec. 9, 2019

advisingHaving your student back home can sometimes be as stressful as it is enjoyable. Even when we have the best intentions, and are thrilled to see each other, we can find ourselves in tough conversations. Preparing for these interactions, whatever they may be, can help make us all feel more productive and positive this holiday season.

Conflicting emotions

Whether it’s their first year or their senior year, it's not uncommon for your student’s views on the world to evolve over time. Sometimes, you may find that your student’s views differ with yours. We should do our best to communicate our thoughts and views with respect, and be willing to consider other perspectives. It’s important to remember that we can love each other and disagree at the same time.

Plan ahead

If you have an important question or topic you’d like to bring up with your student, planning the conversation can help. This assures you are able to share what you wish and hear your student’s perspective more effectively. If you can, take a few minutes before your conversation to consider these questions:

  • What do you hope to accomplish from this conversation?
  • What would be an ideal outcome?
  • How might this conversation affect your relationship?
  • How will you know when it’s time to take a break?
  • What assumptions are you making about how your student will respond or feel?

Before going into a potentially stressful conversation, it’s important to check-in with ourselves about what we’re expecting and what might realistically happen, so we can prepare emotionally.

If your student initiates a conversation, it can be helpful to ask for time to pull your thoughts together. Make a plan and pick a time when you both can talk. This will help you feel more prepared, and the conversation won’t catch you off guard.

Pick a quiet time

Sometimes a simple topic, like your student’s summer plans, can turn into a heavier conversation. Whether you’re sharing a specific concern or want to discuss a difficult topic, being prepared can help. Choosing a quiet area to talk, finding a time that works for all parties, explaining why you want to have the conversation and sharing what you hope will come of it can all make for a better interaction.

De-escalate or take a break

When we have tough conversations, they can become heated or escalate more than we might have expected. When this happens, it may even lead you to say something that you regret. In these situations, de-escalating is an important tool to bring everyone back to the facts. Reiterate why this conversation is important and that you value your student.

If the volume ticks up, use your own voice to bring it back down. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a moment and breathe before speaking again. If need be, ask to take a break and return to the conversation after everyone has time to cool off. Perhaps everyone needs to take a short walk, have a snack or get a good night’s sleep.

Reflect and follow up if needed

While it would be nice, change doesn’t happen overnight. Conversations don’t always resolve the way we’d like, and more often than not, seeing progress requires more than one conversation and a willingness to keep trying.

If things feel like they’re unresolved, let your student know that you appreciate their time and you’d like to follow up with them in the future. Give them some time and space before engaging again. If things are resolved more quickly, share your appreciation and gratitude.

If you have concerns about your student when they come home, you can reach out to Student Support and Case Management (SSCM). They can help you determine the signs of distress or concern, and how to connect with support resources. You can refer your student to SSCM by filling out their online referral form or by contacting their office at 303-492-7348.