Okay, okay. “Chaos” is definitely an exaggeration. The hustle and bustle of the pre-experience is an energizing and vibrant social scene, but for some students, it’s also an intimidating, stressful, and potentially overwhelming experience. To some, it can feel more frenzied than fun. But not on your watch! In time, you’ll be able to help your student find the fun.
Be flexible. Be aware that the pre-experience may represent the most troubling time for students who are dealing with anxiety. Offer breaks as much as needed. See if you can help your student to branch out and interact with their peers as much as possible. Consider every minute you’re able to keep your student engaged in the pre-experience as a win!
Ready for some tips? Use the strategies below to help your student feel less stress and participate well in the pre-experience social setting.
Prepare Your Student Before Switch Begins
- Arrange to meet the student 5-15 minutes before the bulk of the other students arrive. It can be less intimidating to watch a crowd form than to join an already-formed crowd.
- Check with your campus staff to help you choose a good time to meet up. Some campuses are already fairly crowded even up to an hour before the main Switch experience begins. If this is the case, then you’ll need to work around the crowd in other ways.
- Do a volunteering task together such as setting up games, preparing refreshments, organizing chairs, signing leaders in, etc. You’ll not only build a greater sense of purpose and community, but it will help you both arrive early to observe the crowd build.
- Look for a quieter area at your campus where you can plan to meet. Maybe you can arrange to meet at one of the lesser-used doors at your campus. You can help your student join the crowd slowly, and at their pace.
- Coordinate with campus staff to see if the student can visit the church on a day when there aren’t any events planned. Offer to walk the student through each piece of the evening without any other students around so they can be better prepared when other students arrive at Switch. Getting familiar with the environment while it’s quiet can help boost familiarity and confidence for when it’s bustling with energetic students.
Help Your Student Feel Included
- Meet the student when they’re dropped off.
- Help your student find an activity, group, or location they feel comfortable in. Don’t leave them alone to find their own way.
- Stay close and keep a calm, friendly tone. You don’t need to be right next to them, but be available to step in when you notice they need you.
- Introduce the student to the games, activities, students, etc. that they can interact with. Explain each game or special element of the evening as needed.
- Help the student find and greet the other students in their small group as they’re arriving. Help them to stay connected and interact with them throughout the evening.
- Respect the student’s need to retreat if the pre-experience is too much. Use sensory support or try five minutes with the other students, and five minutes of break until it’s time to move into the main experience.
Offer Sensory Support
- If the environment is too loud, offer noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, or move to a quieter space within sight of the crowd.
- If the environment is too bright, offer sunglasses.
- If the environment is too crowded for your student, look for a place within sight that is less busy where you can sit and play a game or talk together. Try five minutes with the other students, and five minutes of break until it’s time to move into the main experience.
- Offer sensory calming and focusing items if your student needs to occupy their hands to help them manage the energy around them.
With your flexible attitude and caring help, your student will find their place amongst their peers. They’ll stop cringing at “chaos” and will start feeling the fun!