Your college student will probably run the gamut of emotions during her time in college. She 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 he 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 his emotions may be one indicator, however, of his 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 his emotions, the better he 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 her work with her emotions productively. Here are four keys to help her think about.
- Monitor – Suggest that your student pay attention to how he feels at various times. Suggest that he notice when his moods change in positive or negative directions. Just paying attention may help him stay in touch with himself more closely.
- Label – Try to help your student identify what she is feeling. Identifying and putting a name to an emotion is a good first step to dealing with it. Naming something may give her 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 he is feeling and given it a label, suggest that he 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 he experiences an emotion may help your student cope with it.
- Manage – If your student can notice a mood, label it, and determine its cause, she is in a better position to try to manage that emotion. It is possible that she may simply need to let it run its course, but she may also be able work to change the way that she feels. Suggest that she use self-talk to change her feelings. Suggest that she talk to friends, her residence assistant, advisor or counselor. Ask her to think about what she might do differently to change her mood or to prevent the problem in the future. Rather than simply being a victim of her moods, suggest that she work to create the “right” mood. Let your student know that you realize this isn’t simple, but working at it and taking control will help.
Helping your student learn to manage her emotions may be difficult. Your student may or may not be willing to share her moods with you. Let her know that you understand and are not dismissing the way that she is feeling, but that the more that she works at understanding and managing her moods and emotions, the better that she will become at it. The better she becomes, the more Emotionally Intelligent she becomes, the more in control of her life she will feel.