Over the winter break, parents tend to treat their returned college students as guests, making their favorite foods and doing their laundry, but as the days go on, you'll most likely expect your son or daughter to take a more active role as a family member. To best enjoy the time together, it helps if parents remain flexible and maintain a sense of humor as your relationship with your college student continues to change and evolve.
Parent/Family Survival Tips:
- Talk to your student about what plans they may already have for the winter break. Let them know the expected family obligations, but understand they may need to time to catch up with old friends.
- Don't be concerned if your student is sleeping more. They aren't lazy. They're exhausted due to all late night cram sessions, dorm life and intense study times. Students sleeping schedules can change dramatically while in college.
- Coming home is not always easy. College students are happy to come home, but also expect everything to be just the way they left it. They have a tendency to forget that time didn't stop when they left for college. Remember that this may be the first time they are looking at things from an outside perspective.
- Curfews are often an issue. Students have been living on their own for a few months and probably are capable of taking care of themselves. They want you to recognize and respect their new independence. You don't want to alienate your student or discourage him/her from wanting to come home. If you do set a curfew, consider your reasons for doing so and discuss this with your student. For example, if you want to know they are safe then discuss what time they expect to be home, and ask them to to call or text if there is a change in plans.
- Your student is in the middle of a major life transition. Some students may have concerns about going home, especially if they have changed dramatically since the last time they saw you. Be prepared for changes such as a new haircut, new piercings, changes in religious or political beliefs. They will appreciate your support, rather than criticism.
- Often over the winter break, college students experience a certain kind of culture shock. Life at home is different than college life. They may discover they have more in common with their new college friends than their childhood friends. This may be a confusing time for your student. A little understanding and compassion from you can go a long way.
When Grades Arrive:
College is about more than grades. The grades belong to your student and are their responsibility. If they did poorly, it’s their choice to work to pull up their overall average or not. This isn’t always easy to swallow, especially if you’re the one paying the bills, but these tips may make the conversation easier:
For the student who has done well:
- Celebrate! Getting good grades in college is tough to do, especially for first-year students and those balancing coursework with athletics, a job or other co-curricular activities.
- Discuss what your student learned. Which class was most engaging and why? What was she able to apply from classes to her life outside of classes? Will they be taking any additional courses to further explore a particular subject area?
- Review study techniques and other preparation strategies that worked well. What tricks did your student discover for themselves? Will they be using the same strategies next term? Will they be trying anything new?
For the student who hasn’t done so well:
- Explore the reasons for the performance. The why behind the poor grades is what is most important. Perhaps your student is struggling with a professor and needs support in handling the situation. Or maybe your student spent too many nights goofing off and not enough nights studying. Whatever the case, get to the root of the issue, and help your student address it.
- Seek to understand. What’s done is done. Rather than dwelling on the negative, it’s important to focus on fixing the issues so your student can do better academically.
- Brainstorm some strategies for improvement. It could prove very helpful to sit down and brainstorm together. See the box for some potential areas to discuss.