What to Expect When Your Student Comes Home for Winter Break
Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 @ 2:06 pm
What to Expect When Your Student Comes Home for Winter Break: Observations from a Parent who Happens to be Vice President for Student Affairs at Pratt
As I have shared with many of you in the speeches that I have given to parents, I too am the parent of college students. Last fall, I sent my second and last child to college for the first time. As I eagerly await the return of both of my girls for the winter break, I try to remember the lessons learned from my older daughter’s first winter break home. I share some of these with you in hopes that you will be more prepared than I was that first holiday season:
1. Don’t expect to see a lot of your student.
- Expect your student to spend a lot of time sleeping. The end of the semester is very stressful and exhausting, especially at Pratt. Don’t worry too much about the amount of time that he is sleeping. (That said, if your student has a history of depression or other indications of depression you should consult a doctor.)
- FRIENDS, FRIENDS, FRIENDS: Your student is confident in your love and that she will see you. She is likely to worry if relationships will change and will want to see friends and re-establish those connections as quickly as possible. Besides, friends are still the center of their lives.
- Separation Anxiety: This is a process. The subconscious push-pull toward parents is still in operation (How long? I can’t say—I still see it a little bit in my 21 year old). As they become adults, depending upon you too much detracts from their feelings of autonomy.
2. What are the rules?
- Your student may want to eliminate curfews and accounting for her time. How you handle this is completely your call. Just remember that they are accustomed to not having any accountability and so imposing any rules will probably meet with resistance. I negotiated a “no curfew, high communication” rule early on with my older daughter. I always needed to know where she was going and when she would be home, but did not tell her when to be home.
- The rules about respect and civility should not change. I actually have found that my children became much nicer to me after they went to college than just before they left (a very big silver lining).
3. Responsibility: Just how mature are they?
- It wasn’t until the second year at winter break that I saw any real change in my daughter’s self-motivation to clean or chip in with chores. But there was a little less resistance and I have to admit that I was more willing to clean up after her (since I wanted to pamper her a little).
- The best way to approach grades is by coming to an agreement before the semester begins. But it is never too late to insist on seeing a grade report and on having a frank discussion about how your son or daughter is performing.
- When a grade is a disappointment, I find it useful to sympathize and then strategize or problem solve about why the grade was lower than expected and what my daughter will do differently next time.
- If the grades are seriously deficient, more directive action may be necessary and I would recommend directing your student to his academic advisor for assistance.
5. LOVE, SUPPORT, ENCOURAGEMENT, AND GOOD HOME COOKING
- I have definitely found that the way to my children’s hearts is through their stomachs, so I cook up a storm and try to be as supportive and understanding as I can be. This often means what it has always meant: being there when they are ready and available.
This year to insure quality time with my daughters, my husband and I planned a family vacation that they could not resist. So we are going to a warm location for the week between Christmas and New Years, just the four of us. I will let you know how it goes, but I am hopeful that we will have a wonderful time and I will get at least one more week of undivided family time.
I know that every family and every student is different, but I hope that you find at least some of my experiences helpful to you as you navigate this transitional time in your student’s life.
Written by Dr. Helen Matusow-Ayres, Vice President for Student Affairs
Posted in • For Parents