Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria

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Advice for Parents of New University and College Students

Moving to schoolAs we embark on the beginning of another school year, the majority of the focus is rightfully on the university and college students who are transitioning into a whole new phase of life as they enter post-secondary education. As September approached, I saw a great deal of literature that offered advice to the students about what to expect from their first hours, days, and weeks at school. I did not, however, see very much advice for the just as large population of parents of these new first-year students.

As a mental health professional and parent, I’ve collected a few nuggets of wisdom when it comes to supporting your child and new student in this transition.

Stay organized to avoid stress: Nothing is worse than being emotionally fragile and disorganized. Make sure you have the correct information and paperwork, and that you have made your to-do lists and shopping lists. This will help you feel prepared and armed to handle the exhaustive and emotional process of moving in your child and saying goodbye.

Encourage your child to try everything: The first couple of days at university and college are designed to appeal to a variety of needs and personalities that help students orient themselves with their new surroundings. While your child may not want to throw themselves into new activities or get-to-know-you games, encourage him or her to try everything that is offered in these first days so that they stay busy and occupied.

Know that homesickness and discomfort are normal: Remind your child that every student feels the same way: new, awkward, and uncomfortable, and this is completely normal! If your child calls you feeling homesick and sad, avoid rushing in to rescue them from these feelings, because they are an important part of acclimatizing to their new environment and learning valuable coping skills.

Make yourself aware of the resources: Your child has a lot on their mind when they arrive to school. They are trying to feel comfortable in their new space, trying to meet people and get oriented in their new home. It wouldn’t hurt for you to familiarize yourself with the resources available on campus and within the school’s housing and residence structure. This way, if and when you see your child struggling or uncomfortable, you can make recommendations and direct them to help.

Be prepared for them to make mistakes: As you probably know from your own experience as a young adult, your child is not perfect. They will make mistakes this year, and these mistakes will help them learn and grow into a better person. While you may be disappointed in certain decisions they make, be there for them and work through it together.

Try not to smother them: This time in your child’s life is crucial to their development into a self-sufficient and responsible young adult. Give them the space they need to discover who they truly are and what makes them happy.

The first few weeks of this transition will be hard for both you and your child, but this is what you’ve worked so hard for – a child who is capable and responsible. Trust that they can take on the world, and know that even though you may not always be physically with them or actively guiding them, you are still the biggest influence in their life.

Remember that everyone is different, and no two parents will handle the situation the same. That being said, how are you managing during the first days of the transition? Share your experience with me below.


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Using Emotions to Your Advantage During Organizational Change

time for change It is a generally accepted notion that in today’s world, organizational change is a constant and necessary part of growing and evolving your  business. Yet, employees often feel that when change occurs in their organization, they were either not expecting the change or worse, if  they were expecting it, they were not prepared for it.

 Organizational leaders can manage the process of organizational change more effectively for the employee and the organization if it pays  attention to the emotional component of change.  In general, when facilitating organizational change, leaders often act as if data and facts  are the only metrics that matter.  When the emotional piece of the puzzle is missing, ignored or denied, organizations aren’t very good at  creating effective organizational change.
When a leader recognizes, values and manages the emotions related to change, this trend can be  reversed. Imagine being able to help your employees prepare for and even embrace change, achieving better results from your efforts to validate the emotions associated with change.

I’d like to share with you my top five positive emotion suggestions to help your organization create more effective change, better relationships and less stress:

Joy. Help your employees see the big picture of the change – the purpose for it.  When they see, understand and believe in the “big why” for the change, joy can truly become a shared emotion.

Gratitude. Often times in the short term, changes look catastrophic and chaotic, but when viewed later with the perspective of time, the change was a positive. Get your employees thinking about how things will improve in the long run to encourage a sense of gratitude.

Serenity. Serenity results when  employees are able to accept change and take ownership over their  part in the transformation. Instead of focusing on what is outside of their control, help your employees see where they can  make a difference.

Interest. While the status quo is a powerful thing, when we discover something new, we feel a sense of possibility. Help your employees get interested in some component or outcome of the change, and see this interest develop into creativity and innovation for your business.

Hope. We have all been through times of transition and probably felt frustration in the midst of an organizational change, yet hope is the belief that things can, and will, improve. Help your employees see past today and recognize their part in making tomorrow better, and engage their innate hopefulness.

What other emotions are associated with organizational change? How have you seen your employees respond to change? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below!

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Back To School!

back-to-school1The 4-year old beginning school for the first time; the 6-year old starting Grade 1; the 14-year old beginning High School; the 18-year old starting College or University.  Yes, it is an exciting time for every student, but what they also share in common is anxiety due to the anticipation of a new environment and fear of the unknown.

As I write this blog a week before school starts, we should remind ourselves that the transition period to these new beginnings can be anxiety-provoking for most students, while overwhelming and even traumatic for others. For most people, It is all too easy to remember the anxiety often felt on Labour Day before the first day of school.

Although research shows that students experience anxiety adjusting to their first year at College and University (Canadian Organization of University College Health, June 2013), there is growing evidence that suggests the rate at which anxiety is affecting students at the High School (McGill University, April 2013) level and even as far back as Kindergarten (Canadian Paediatric Society, 2009) is increasing.

The good news is that usually this anxiety is transient, and its shelf life will terminate once the unknown becomes clear and familiarity sets in for the student.  But for some students, the period of adjustment will take longer to work through and can have numerous negative consequences including:

  • distraction
  • loss of concentration
  • falling behind in school
  • isolation
  • loneliness

As a parent, the role you play in your child’s transition periods is crucial. To learn how you can help your child cope with their new beginnings this fall,  visit the following link.

How do you support your children through periods of anxiety and discomfort brought on by new beginnings or experiences? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!