One of my current students sent me an email recently, apologizing for having submitted an assignment a few minutes late; I require that assignments be submitted electronically, as I can give feedback much more efficiently that way (and have far fewer calluses on my hands, as a result). In the message, she also shared some things that are going on for her personally -- not making excuses or asking for special treatment, but simply letting me know that her performance currently is not as she'd like it to be.
I responded to her message in a way similar to how I've responded to others like it, and this is what I wrote:
Hi, (insert student's name here) ~
I truly appreciate your note, and please don't worry about the "late" essay. I typically accept submissions on-time when they're just a few minutes late, as I realize technical difficulties happen.
I'm sorry that you are having personal difficulties, and I do hope you are finding the support you need to resolve them. Please know that the Health Center on campus provided psychological support to students when they are overly stressed or in crisis, and if you care to look into that, you can go to this website (insert web address here) or you can call (insert number here).
I realize that sometimes it is difficult to convey, but I really do respect and appreciate each of my students as whole people. I know, (insert student's name here), that you and all other students are much more than your academic performance in my class. Yes, I have high standards for my students because I want you to make the most of your college education, and I feel our field is very important -- I know each and every one of you can make important and powerful differences in the lives of children and families with whom you'll work. But I also realize that you have your own lives, and balancing your personal needs with your academic studies and progression to your degree can be very difficult at times. I was in and out of college for 8 years before earning my BS in Child Development. I changed majors four times, and in many of my classes in community college, I did just the bare minimum required to pass. I was fortunate enough to have some professors during that time that saw my potential, and planted seeds of confidence and passion that sprouted much later. I've tried to let each of them know, but I also realize that much of what happens here, while you're in college, won't be evident to you until much later. And I do not think less of any of my students who don't seem to be "getting it" now. You, though, I can tell, are committed to doing your best each day. Your health and well-being have to be taken into consideration, and I'm completely confident that you're gaining what you're supposed to be gaining from being here. Right now.
Thank you for your note, and I hope today is better ~
And I really meant it.