Parents: Helping Your Student Cope with Stress

College students need to develop the ability to apply problem-solving skills when faced with problems that are new to them. Problem-solving skills are vital for students’ academic and professional success. Employers often identify problem solving as being the most important skill they look for in potential employees.

You can help your student strengthen their problem-solving skills. When your student calls you for help, walk them through the following problem-solving process:Have your student explain the problem. Don’t interrupt.

  • Offer cues: ‘How can I be helpful? What do you think you should do? What options are you considering?’
  • Help your student evaluate their choices, but don’t choose for them.
  • If they still seem stuck, ask, ‘What do you imagine my advice would be?’
  • Assure them with supportive words like ‘I think you can handle this.’ At the same time, let them know that ‘No matter what, I’m here for you.’

One problem many students encounter, especially around the end of the semester, is how to cope with academic stress. Parents can help by acknowledging signs of stress in their student and helping them understand their options for coping with and reducing stress, such as the following:

  • Manage Time & Energy: For a college student, effective time management is vital to their academic success. Time management reduces stress, as students plan ahead and allot time appropriately to differing tasks. Good time management also promotes self-confidence as students experience success coping with the many demands on their time. If your student needs help determining how to manage their time, they can visit with an academic success coach through UNL’s First Year Experience.

  • Get Active: Regular physical activity can help the mind and body deal with stress. Research shows that getting regular exercise improves mood and reduces stress. At UNL’s Campus Rec, every student can find a physical activity they enjoy.
  • Find 20 Minutes for ‘Me’ Time: Encourage your student to set aside at least 20 minutes each day to relax, take a walk, or enjoy a hobby. Research shows that having alone time improves our concentration, makes us more productive, and aids in problem solving.
  • Hit the Sack: It’s been proven that getting enough sleep can help students get higher GPAs and reduce stress. Experts recommend college students get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Choose Healthy Foods: Many students report an increased consumption of sugary and starchy foods (comfort foods) during periods of stress. This type of diet can interfere with their focus. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, while avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, are proactive steps towards emotional health. If your student wants to learn easy ways to eat healthier, the University Health Center offers every UNL student one free nutrition counseling session.
  • Talk to Someone: Some students need additional help finding healthy ways to cope with stress. The counselors at the University Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) are here when your student needs someone to talk with, especially when stress is negatively impacting your student’s everyday life. Every UNL student receives 3 free counseling sessions. CAPS also offers a variety of support groups to help students work through their personal concerns while gaining insight.


Parents: Warning Signs of Mental Health Issues, When to Take Action

As a parent of a college student, college is an exciting time as you watch your student become more mature and independent. However, college can also be a time of stress and insecurity. Many college students overcome common college stressors by developing new coping skills. But some students may need assistance learning how to cope.

But how do you know when your student is having a “normal” reaction to stress or when something more serious needs addressed?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 75% of mental illnesses begin by age 24. A mental illness is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis.

Research shows that people who are treated in the earliest stages of a mental health concern are likely to have better outcomes. This makes awareness of the early warning signs of a mental illness critical for parents to identify. These signs include the following:

  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Thinking about suicide
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

If you notice any of these early warning signs in your student, encourage them to seek help from one of the following resources on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus:

University Health Center Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
1500 U Street

CAPS offers a variety of services to help students with: Anxiety and Depression, Drug and Alcohol Counseling, Relationship Difficulties, Eating Disorders, Sexuality Concerns, Communication Skills, Homesickness, Time Management, Learning Disabilities / ADD, Diversity Concerns, Grief and Trauma, Social Justice Issues, and Other Personal Concerns.

Individual, Confidential Counseling – Every UNL student who has paid UNL student fees receives 3 free counseling sessions. Encourage your student to call to schedule an appointment.

Support and Therapy Groups – Encourage your student to view the group listing at: Most groups are free for UNL students and many allow students to “drop-in” at any time throughout the semester.

UNL Women’s Center Counseling Services
340 Nebraska Union
(402) 472-2598

The UNL Women’s Center offers individual, confidential counseling for students of all genders on a wide range of personal issues. Encourage your student to call for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Counseling and School Psychology Clinic
49 Teachers College Hall
(402) 472-1152

Clinic therapists provide individual adult therapy to address a wide range of concerns. The Clinic serves as an education and training site for graduate students in the School and Counseling Psychology programs of the Department of Educational Psychology. Encourage your student to call for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Psychological Consultation Center (PCC)
325 Burnett Hall
(402) 472-2351

The Psychological Consultation Center is part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Clinical Psychology Training Program. PCC clinicians and staff provide psychological services to individuals and families in Lincoln and surrounding communities. Encourage your student to call for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness