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Whether your child is completing their academic program or is preparing to study abroad in the U.S. for the first time, they likely are experiencing varying degrees and forms of stress. For adolescents—especially in our post-pandemic world—having access to and understanding healthy coping skills is critical. When a situation feels painful or overwhelming, students may default to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as:

  • avoidance—attempting to avoid a stressful situation; 
  • misdirected anger—using rage or aggression to mask sadness or release other difficult emotions; 
  • social media overuse—as a distraction from painful feelings;
  • substance abuse—as self-medication for anxiety, trauma, or depression;
  • self-harm—as a way to release feelings of pain, tension, and anxiety; and
  • disordered eating—as a form of self-control when teens feel out of control.

Healthy alternatives to handling stressful situations give students a better way to process what they’re experiencing. The more they practice healthy coping skills, the more they see how effective and positive these tools can be.

Here are some techniques you can introduce to your child.

Healthy Coping Skills

While there are many approaches for coping, the most effective generally help a person approach rather than avoid the source of their stress. Here are the top five strategies.

Problem-Focused Coping 

This involves taking direct action and works best when a child is dealing with a very specific, solvable problem (as opposed to unfocused anxiety or stress). 

In these cases, encourage your child to learn as much as they can about the situation and seek people who can support them in finding a solution. This could be a family member, school counselor, advisor, or faculty member. Another strategy is to break down their problem into manageable pieces or elements, and address each of them one step at a time. 

Emotion-Focused Coping

Your child’s reaction to their thoughts and feelings plays a significant role in whether they think a situation is stressful. Here are three emotion-focused coping strategies your child can use to manage their response.

  • Breathing and relaxation practices: Slow, deep breathing has an immediate soothing effect and regulates the nervous system.
  • Creative expression: Music, art, or dance can help your child process their emotions productively and positively.
  • Movement: Engaging in any form of activity—walking, playing a sport, stretching—provides a physical release of emotions, and can help your child focus on something other than the immediate situation.

Social Support

Turning to others is one of the most helpful coping skills when handling a problem or stress. Encourage your child to connect with a close friend, a parent, or a trusted adult. 

Reframing the Issue

This approach involves taking a new perspective on a situation. In conversation, try looking at the circumstance from a different view to see positive or meaningful aspects. Another way to do this is through journaling—encourage your child to write down their feelings or write out the situation, as this can help bring perspective and make sense of what they’re experiencing.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact for more information.

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Most U.S. schools provide a “spring break,” which is typically one to two weeks off from school in March or April. During this time, students enjoy a well-deserved break from the classroom, and international students are no exception. 

If your child is staying close to campus for spring break, here are some ways they can make the most of their time off. 

Explore the Local Area

Living in a new country can be overwhelming at times, but there’s no better way to get to know an area than by exploring it. Students can spend a day or two during spring break visiting local sites and learning more about their city or town. Many cities offer free walking tours or discounted student tickets to local attractions. A change of scenery—and getting outside for fresh air—can be just what students need after months of studying.

Catch Up—or Work Ahead—on Assignments

While it may not be the most exciting option, spring break can also be a good time for students to catch up on any missed assignments or get ahead on upcoming projects. By taking care of schoolwork during the break, they can enjoy the rest of the semester without the stress of looming deadlines.

Connect With Friends and Family Back Home 

A flexible schedule during the day provides a wonderful opportunity for international students to connect with friends and family in their home country. Catch up and spend some quality time over a video or phone call.

Prepare for College

If your child is a high school junior or senior and thinking about attending college in the U.S., spring break is an opportune time to research options, explore scholarships, and, if possible, schedule a virtual tour at a university or college they’re interested in. Creating an application timeline is especially helpful—noting necessary test dates and deadlines for applications and scholarships can alleviate some stress that comes with admission season.

If you have any questions or concerns about your student, be sure to contact the International Student Program Coordinator at their school.

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International students face culture shock, language barriers, difficulty understanding their teachers, and myriad other challenges—including maintaining good mental health—as they leave all they know and everyone they love behind. A lack of access to their normal support system can trigger distress while living in a country far from home. 

When students feel overwhelmed and stressed, they need someone they can turn to for guidance and counsel. For international students new to the U.S., cultural differences and simply being unaware of available support make approaching mental well-being concerns more difficult. 

Telehealth Helps Students Receive Mental Health Support

Telehealth is the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. While it isn’t a complete replacement for in-person mental health care, it offers an advantage for both students and schools.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research recently conducted a study to determine if telehealth platforms could successfully reduce suicidal ideation among enrolled patients, compared to a control group of individuals that did not receive similar care. The results revealed that patients in the telehealth group were 4.3 times less likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Telehealth Provides Connection Anytime, Anywhere

If a student has a mental health crisis at any time—in and outside of the regular school day— access to telehealth enables them to interact with a mental health professional through an app, video call, or phone call in their time of need. If a student feels uncomfortable seeking help from their school counselor, or if that counselor is unavailable at the moment they need help, the student can chat or text a provider through a telehealth platform.

The ability to connect with a professional on their terms and through technology they’re familiar with can also reduce the social stigma teens may feel regarding mental health support. They can receive care without worrying about being seen by someone else at their school counselor’s office or traveling to a therapist with their host family.

GeoBlue’s Global Wellness Assist Program

ISM’s International Scholar Protection is provided by our partner, GeoBlue. Included with all student plans is their Global Wellness Assist—a telehealth program for students who are studying internationally. This program provides access to free, confidential assistance any time, anywhere. 

Professionals are ready to assist with any issue. Topics include, but are not limited to: 

  • harmony between academic and personal life; 
  • managing life changes; 
  • bullying and harassment; 
  • managing anxiety and depression;
  • substance use;
  • surviving the loss of a loved one; and
  • handling stress.

Global Wellness Assist is staffed by licensed therapists, including native speakers of 70 languages, meaning your student can talk to a provider in the language their most comfortable with. The program’s staff members are bound by professional standards regarding confidentiality and do not disclose details of individuals who have contacted the service. Any information your student provides will not be shared with the plan sponsor. Once matched, your student can meet with the same therapist for each following appointment. 

Click here to learn more about ISM’s International Scholar Protection.

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As parents of international students, the health and well-being of your children are among your top priorities. One main concern during winter months is the increase in illness. COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold are currently prevalent in the U.S. Knowing the symptoms of each can help you better identify when your child should simply rest and stay home from school, or should seek medical attention.

Symptoms of All Three Illnesses 

Before we dive into the differences between these conditions, let’s first look at some of the typical symptoms they share. These include: 

• Fever 

• Cough 

• Sore throat 

• Runny nose or congestion 

• Fatigue or tiredness  

However, even though these illnesses have the same symptoms doesn’t mean they should be treated similarly. Distinguish between them so that proper treatment is administered and infections don’t spread. 

The Difference Between COVID-19 and the Flu 

Although COVID-19 and the flu both cause fever and cough, there are other key differences in presenting symptoms. For example, COVID-19 is more likely to cause body aches than the flu. Someone with COVID-19 may experience diarrhea more often than someone with the flu does. While both illnesses can lead to serious complications if left untreated—especially for those who are immunocompromised—COVID-19 is far more dangerous.

The Differences Between the Flu and a Common Cold 

The common cold and the flu share many symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu is caused by influenza A and influenza B, while the common cold can be caused by over 200 different types of viruses. Colds are more common, result in a milder illness, and typically resolve without treatment. The flu is a more severe illness and can be treated with antiviral medications and over-the-counter medications for symptom relief. 

The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. 

Knowing the differences between COVID-19, the flu, and a common cold helps you determine what steps your child can take to mitigate the spread and what type of care they should seek. Be sure to also consult the school’s policies regarding illness as you communicate with your child.

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Parenting has always been hard, but it’s only become more difficult in the internet age. Between social media, gaming, and an abundance of screens, most parents say raising a child is more difficult today than it was 20 years ago, according to a report from Pew Research Center. 

If your child attends school in another country, these challenges become even more difficult, especially because social norms around technology differ from country to country. 

Do you want to ensure your child is safe online while studying abroad? Follow these tips to help them develop a healthy relationship with technology. 

Make their digital life a recurring topic in your regular conversations.

All children engage in risky behavior and the internet often provides children with many opportunities to put themselves in dangerous situations. In the past few years, that’s only become more common. 

Helping young people develop healthy relationships with the internet begins with open and honest dialogue. Ask your child what they do online. Whom do they talk with? What apps do they use? What pictures are they sharing? If your child mention a particular app, account, or game you’re unfamiliar with, do some research. 

It’s important to remove judgment from these conversations. Try to prompt them to highlight risky behavior and dangerous situations by asking questions like, “What were you hoping to gain?” or “How might that look to someone who doesn’t know you?” If they’re regularly chatting with people they’ve never met in person, ask them questions about who those people are beyond their avatars. 

If you take their digital lives seriously and resist the temptation to only compare them against your own (much different) childhood, then they will be more responsive when you voice concerns.

Encourage healthy digital use of time and, when possible, limit their daily use.

Emphasize the positive aspects of the internet, like the videoconferencing service you’re using to chat with them or the online tools they use to complete homework assignments. Talk also about the downsides digital life can have on our health, such as its links to depression and sleep loss.

You might even consider creating what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls a Family Media Plan, which acts as a collaborative, practical guide for limiting screen time and internet use, even when you’re thousands of miles apart. 

Contact a school counselor or administrator if you’re concerned your child is at risk.

Sometimes open conversation and education aren’t enough. If you’re concerned your child might be at risk for more serious issues, like technology addiction or exposure to sexual predators, then you should notify their school counselors and administrators, who can begin an immediate intervention.

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Americans are aware of “the winter blues”—when our moods are negatively affected by cold weather and shortened daylight hours. While this might sound like a form of melancholy or an excuse to stay in bed a little longer, the winter blues is just an informal term for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that’s related to the change of seasons.

While the change of seasons is unavoidable, treating the winter blues isn’t. Here are some tips for helping your child understand and ultimately overcome SAD.

Talk openly with your child about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Knowledge is power. The winter blues can feel alienating if a child believes they’re the only person experiencing it. When children are given honest, objective information about SAD, they’ll recognize that gloomy and apathetic feelings are common during the winter months. As a result, they’ll know their problems are not insurmountable and will recognize there are other people with whom they can discuss their feelings.

Common symptoms of the winter blues are feeling sad and sluggish most of the day, having difficulty concentrating, sleeping too much, and overeating. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, encourage them to follow the steps below to stave off the winter blues.

Help your child create a routine. 

Structure is the enemy of apathy. Children, especially teenagers, who establish consistent schedules and daily, achievable goals will find the winter months easier to navigate. Daily routines allow people to feel in control and help them gain perspective by helping them to objectively analyze everything they accomplish from one day to the next.

Encourage daily physical activity.

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins in the body that enhance a person’s well-being. The Mayo Clinic also notes that physical exercise often leads to increased self-confidence and social interactions, which are at odds with many of the more pervasive symptoms associated with the winter blues.

Make sure they schedule a regular day and time to check in.

Living away from home is difficult, even for children who might feel otherwise. Establish a regular check-in so your child can spend casual time with you and other family members, and remind themselves that they’re not isolated.

Seek professional help if symptoms persist.

Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at the National Institutes of Health, notes that the winter blues is a informal term and not a medical diagnosis. He cautions that the symptoms of the winter blues can be warning signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder, an actual clinical diagnosis. If your child experiences the symptoms for an extended period despite following the recommendations listed above, reach out to their school counselor to seek professional help.

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Most people’s approach to health care is rather simple: When they get sick, they see a doctor. But for those interested in long-term well-being, seeking care only when you’re not feeling your best is not enough. 

“Preventive care” is the term used to describe the ways someone can maintain and improve their overall health. If you want to better understand how preventive care promotes long-term wellness and how to take advantage of options near you, read on.

Preventive care protects children against harmful diseases.

Health care professionals recommend children get immunized against diseases and viruses like chickenpox, COVID-19, human papillomavirus (HPV), and rubella, among others. These vaccines prevent children from contracting life-threatening diseases and strengthen their immune systems. Getting vaccinated ensures children are protected for the long term.

Preventive care normalizes regular visits to health care providers.

Scheduling regular check-ups with primary care physicians and dentists not only allows these health care professionals to ensure your children are healthy and happy, but they also show your children that visits to the doctor’s office are not something to fear. 

Teaching this lesson at an early age is crucial: As people age, consistent check-ups with a doctor are crucial to detec early signs of serious conditions. 

Preventive care instills lifelong healthy habits in children.

Leading a healthy life is more than just shots and visits to the doctor. The best care involves instilling the daily habits that lead to improved physical and mental health. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children engage in 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, including muscle- and bone-strengthening activities like push-ups and running. In addition, they recommend adhering to a sound eating plan and practicing relaxation techniques to improve and maintain mental health. 

By building these habits at an early age, children will maximize the benefits and lead longer, healthier lives as adults.

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Making friends as an international student can be intimidating. Parents are often the first to hear when their child is homesick, lonely, or stressed. It isn’t easy to make new, lasting friendships in a foreign country and parents can feel helpless on the other end of the phone. 

Here are some tips for you to share with your child as you support them through this new challenge. 

Eliminate Language Barriers

Making friends when there is a language barrier is challenging. International students may be tempted to surround themselves with only those who speak their native language because it’s easy and comfortable. 

Talk to your child about the amazing and unique opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds. Remind them that they could miss out on valuable friendships if they base their inner circle on language alone. 

Encourage your child to speak the language of their host-country as much as possible. The more they can speak the language, listen to it, read it—and even sing songs they have learned—the better they will communicate. 

Language need not be a barrier to creating great relationships and the right friend will help your child master their second language. Students can be creative in the ways they communicate and ask questions, too. They can use pictures, hand signals, or videos to ask questions if they don’t know the word. And they can (and should) share their native language with their new friends, too. 

Be Vulnerable

International students will need to get comfortable with being vulnerable to make the best relationships. You can help them do this by nurturing their confidence and self-love. Remind them what makes them a great friend, student, and person and help them understand that fear will only hold them back. Encourage your child to take risks by embracing the foreign culture and learning as much as they can about it. 

Suggest they start a conversation with one new person each day. Students can prepare a list of introductory questions (such as do you have any pets; where were you born; how many siblings do you have) and use it to spark conversations with new people. Challenge them to ask their teachers about their own educational backgrounds and experiences, too. It can be scary to put yourself out there, but it’s all part of the international student experience. 

Add Humor

Humor is a powerful tool. Not only can it kill fear and negative self-talk, but it can and does bring people together. Laughter is not dependent on language or culture so encourage your child to grab their phone and watch some funny videos with their new friends. If someone mentions a language mishap to your child, encourage your child to take it lightly and laugh it off together. It’s bound to happen and in every failure there is a lesson. 

Remember (Almost) Everything Is Temporary

Your child’s time studying abroad will come to an end sooner than you both think. Fear, discomfort, and anxiety are temporary; eventually they dissipate and fade into the past. Your child may be filled with many overwhelming emotions as they try to forge new, meaningful friendships, but it’s certainly worth the discomfort and risk— the one thing from their time abroad that just may last a lifetime is a great friendship.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact for more information.

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Private schools in the United States typically have a health center (also known as an infirmary) on campus. These, however, aren’t necessarily staffed with doctors or specialists at all times. If a student requires medical attention off-campus or when they’re not at school, there are several options to consider. Here’s what you need to know about health care centers in the U.S. 

Remote Appointments (TeleMD)

ISM’s International Scholar Protection provides coverage through our partner, GeoBlue. GeoBlue offers remote telehealth visits through their GlobalMD smartphone app for a variety of health conditions. This service is best used for guidance about conditions such as allergies, cold and flu, insect bites, rashes, sinusitis, and minor ailments requiring prescriptions. Students can quickly schedule a remote appointment through the app. 

Providers are available 24 hours a day. Telehealth appointments offer students the treatment and guidance of a physician in the comfort of their own dorm room, and are free to use.

In-Office Doctor’s Visits 

Ear aches, colds, stomach aches, sore throats, fever, and routine physicals (anything non-emergency or preventive) are best scheduled in a doctor’s office. Their hours vary, and appointments are typically required and scheduled days or weeks in advance. A primary care physician will discuss your medical history and often have access to previous medical records. 

Retail or Convenient Care Clinics

When your child is dealing with a minor medical ailment, such as an infection or a sore throat, they can visit a nurse practitioner at a retail clinic. These clinics are often found in pharmacies, such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid. Appointments are not required and they are often available during evenings and weekends. Patients can lessen the wait times by signing up online or calling ahead. These clinics do not have physicians on staff, cannot treat medical emergencies, perform x-rays, or provide stitches. They can however, perform flu, strep, and covid tests, and prescribe antibiotics for infections. 

Urgent Care Centers

For non-life threatening but urgent conditions such as cuts that require stitches, or sprains and strains that require x-rays, a trip to the nearest urgent care center is best. These centers have nurses, physicians, and medical assistants on staff and can provide diagnostic testing and x-rays, but not surgical procedures. Urgent-care centers are less expensive than a trip to the emergency room (ER). 

Hospital Emergency Rooms 

Most hospitals have emergency rooms for life-threatening or disabling conditions, such as heart and respiratory problems, heavy bleeding that won’t stop, and sudden severe pain. Emergency rooms have a full medical staff, including specialists, and are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 

Appointments are not required and patients are often treated according to the severity of their condition. If students are not entirely sure if a trip to the ER is necessary, they can connect with a medical provider through telehealth for a pre-screening.  

Before heading to the ER for an emergency, patients should be prepared with a list of current medications, and their own and family medical history. Families can prepare for the worst case scenario by helping students understand that emergency rooms can be crowded and intimidating, but it’s best to remain calm and patient until you are seen by a medical provider. If you’re not sure whether your situation is an emergency, dial 911 and let the operator determine if you need emergency help.

All of these medical centers will request proof of insurance (an insurance ID card) at the time of your visit.