By: Jill Yashinsky-Wortman, Director of the Center for Cura Personalis
For many of our students, coming to Gonzaga is their first experience with Jesuit education. For others, this is old hat! The Jesuit educational tradition is rich, longstanding and steeped in special words and phrases that provide meaning for how we support students. One of those phrases is “cura personalis,” which means “care for the whole person.”
As parents and family members, you are integral in providing this care and helping us support your student. Below, we want to highlight a few ways you can help your student be and become his or her best self.
Check in with your student (but not too much!)
In this world of technology, it can be easy, almost too easy, to be constantly connected. Use technology to be supportive, but set some boundaries for yourself and your student. Come to a reasonable agreement on how much communication you should have via phone, text, Facetime, etc. When you think about reasonable, consider the dynamics at play—your own and, especially, your student’s, such as health concerns, previous academic success, ability to form relationships, navigating change, etc. Talk with your student about what feels sensible for both of you. Students often prefer to text, but keep in mind that texts can result in misinterpretations on your part or theirs. If you are really worried about your student, connect face to face via Skype, Facetime or something similar. What you notice in your student’s nonverbal communication will often tell you more about how he or she is doing than anything else.
Empower your student to solve problems
When you get that first text about a struggle your student is experiencing, stop and take a breath before you respond. Then, try to empower your student to solve it on his or her own. Reframe the struggle by asking who or what resources on campus could help navigate this situation. Encourage your student to reach out to those resources and attempt to make things better. Part of the college experience is learning to solve problems on your own. Consider this, in four years when your student is (hopefully) gainfully employed and has a challenge, will you call their boss? Your answer should be no. Now is the time to help your student build the confidence to navigate on his or her own.
Stressing out- We hear students use the word “stressed” a lot.
This stress is a result of many things—academics, over-involvement in clubs or student organizations, interpersonal issues, lack of proper sleep, eating, and many others. You will likely hear from your student during one of these “stressed” moments. For some, these moments can feel absolutely overwhelming and all consuming, not like the temporary state it likely is. If your student calls about this, see if he or she can identify things to reduce this stress, like breaking the tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, taking a break to nap or work out, getting a good meal, or talking to a friend. These little things can often make the seemingly overwhelming feel manageable. If your student seems unable to take action, and this overwhelming stress becomes a recurring theme, encourage him or her to connect with an on-campus support service.
Learning from challenges and failures
If you take a moment to reflect on your own life, you likely learned a significant amount during times of adversity. This isn’t to say that you enjoyed these difficult moments, but once they were over and you reflected, you were able to identify things you could have done differently, learning moments, or the ways you had grown. The same is true for your student. College should be a time where students continue to learn to grow from challenges and failures; these experiences are vital to students being able to be resilient. Don’t prevent your student from experiencing life’s challenges; rather, help him or her learn from them.
In the 2015 National College Health Association survey data from Gonzaga undergraduates, those who regularly practice healthy habits—such as eating fruits and vegetables, getting enough restful sleep, participating in athletics, and getting recommended levels of exercise—report having significantly fewer, if any, mental health issues, especially depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Additionally, those who regularly exercise and get enough restful sleep are significantly more likely to report no difficulties handling issues with academics, relationships, and family problems. While each of us inherently knows these healthy behaviors are good for us, they can be the first thing to go when we are struggling or stressed. The same will be true for your student. Encouraging him or her to establish a regular pattern of these healthy behaviors from the beginning will have significant benefits in the long run.
We want your student to experience the care of being a part of the Gonzaga community, which includes helping students navigate new experiences, providing support during struggles, and encouraging them to be intentional about their well-being. In fact, we have an entire staff of people in The Center for Cura Personalis (CCP) who are dedicated to empowering students to be their best selves. When students are struggling and not sure where to start, CCP is often a great first place. Read on to learn more about the specific services and offerings within our office, or visit our website at Center for Cura Personalis.
Case Managers provide non-clinical one-on-one support to students by helping students navigate struggles, connecting them to on and off campus resources, providing follow-up, and guiding students in gaining skills for self-advocacy.
Wellness and Prevention Education:
Our Wellness and Prevention Education staff provide students with information, resources, and support in staying healthy and engaged in all aspects of university life. Along with Peer Educators, our staff provide numerous ways to support students in making decisions about healthy behaviors around alcohol, violence prevention, relationships, mental well-being and more.
Our Unique Recovery (OUR) House Collegiate Recovery Community:
The mission of OUR House as part of Gonzaga’s Collegiate Recovery Community is to create a supportive environment to promote healing and on-going sobriety for students in recovery or at-risk for substance use disorders. Recovery support services include peer connections, dedicated safe space, recovery and sober based activities, and referral assistance. For more information, visit our website at Collegiate Recovery Support Services.