Once you have recognized the warning signs, reflected on what you have seen or heard, and identified there is a reason for concern, the next step is to respond.

Timing and the environment are factors that need to be considered when approaching a student, in order to ensure they feel safe and comfortable. You need to choose a time and place where you can speak to the student in private. When expressing concern for the student, it is important to be explicit and to identify specific behaviours you have observed or heard that are causing you to be worried.

Starting the conversation:

  • “I’ve noticed you have been missing class lately and I am concerned about you.”

Next, you need to be prepared to listen without judgement, show concern, and ask clarifying questions. This requires patience, your undivided attention, and the use of open-ended questions. Be sure to provide students with adequate time to respond as it may take them some time to open up. While listening to the student’s experience, it is important to provide validation, information, and encouragement. Continue to listen to the student without approving or disapproving their concern. Communicate acceptance of the student’s experience by using validation and normalization, which lets them know you are understanding, that they are not alone and that
there is support available.

Examples of open-ended questions:

  • “How are you doing?”
  • “How can I best support you?”
  • “Tell me more about that.”

Examples of validating statements:

  • “It sounds like you’re going through a lot right now.”
  • “I’m sorry you are going through this.”
  • “You aren’t alone in your experience. May I share some resources to support you?”


Guide: PDF Version