Your college student will probably run the gamut of emotions during their time in college. They may even run through many emotions in a single day. As a college parent, you may hear about your student’s highs and lows, or you may be unaware of some of the dips and turns. It is possible that you may feel that your student needs help coping, and you may find yourself offering advice or recommending that they get some help from someone such as a counselor. For most students, however, handling emotional swings becomes part of the college experience.
How well your student handles their emotions may be one indicator, however, of their potential success in college. Some research in Emotional Intelligence suggests that students who recognize and manage their moods, feelings and attitudes well may do better academically. The more closely your student is in touch with their emotions, the better they may do.
As a college parent, you may not be able to help prevent emotional swings for your student, but you may be able to help your student work with their emotions productively. Here are four keys to help your student think about.
- Monitor — Suggest that your student pay attention to how they feel at various times. Suggest that they notice when their moods change in positive or negative directions. Just paying attention may help your student stay in touch more closely.
- Label — Try to help your student identify what they are feeling. Identifying and putting a name to an emotion is a good first step to dealing with it. Naming something may give your student more control over it. It may take some work for your student to be able to recognize the difference between worry and fear or sadness and exhaustion, but it will help.
- Determine — Once your student has noticed how they are feeling and given it a label, suggest that they try to figure out what has caused the emotion. Did a particular event cause the emotional change? Is it related to a class or activity or person? Just knowing why they experience an emotion may help your student cope with it.
- Manage — If your student can notice a mood, label it, and determine its cause, they are in a better position to try to manage that emotion. It is possible that they may simply need to let it run its course, but they may also be able work to change the way that they feel. Suggest that your student use self-talk to change their feelings. Suggest that they talk to friends, a residence assistant, advisor or counselor. Ask your student to think about what they might do differently to change their mood or to prevent the problem in the future. Rather than simply being a victim of moods, suggest that your student work to create the ”right” mood. Let them know that you realize this isn’t simple, but working at it and taking control will help.
Helping your student learn to manage emotions may be difficult. Your student may or may not be willing to share their moods with you. Let them know that you understand and are not dismissing the way that they are feeling, but that the more that they work at understanding and managing moods and emotions, the better that they will become at it. The better they become, the more Emotionally Intelligent they become, the more in control of their life they will feel.