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Making the Grade
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Redefining Your Relationship: Welcoming Your Student Home

Transitioning from college to home during breaks can be challenging for parents and students alike. For both you and your student, the time apart may have led to newfound independence and identity as well as to mixed emotions ranging from elation to emptiness.

For families, these changes can be unexpected and even unnerving at times.  However, they are common within the context of parenting young adults.  As your student has experienced transformation, so, too, have you. 

Welcoming your student home at break can mean renegotiating your relationship and expectations. Disagreements over curfews, chores and finances can make the visit tense at times.  But establishing boundaries can go hand-in-hand with bonding as both you and your student redefine your roles in the relationship.  The following suggestions may help along the way.

Parent Pointers

Build an adult relationship with your student by recognizing your student has matured over the past few months.  During college, most students gain a sense of self-awareness, self-reliance and accountability.  As a result, your well-intended advice may or may not be followed.  While this can be disheartening at times, it is a natural part of the parent-child cycle.

Take pride in your student by noticing the ways he/she has grown in the past few months. Though sometimes subtle, the changes may include a sense of newfound confidence and/or responsibility, an ability to multi-task, as well as a dedicated focus to academics.

Communication is key.  Avoid power struggles by listening to your student's point of view in an open, respectful way.  Define which areas you are flexible with and which ones you are not, but also recognize your student's need to express opinions.

Before asking questions, consider how you might respond if your student is forthright in discussing his/her experiences with alcohol and/or sexual activity. While these topics can be challenging to discuss, your student is expressing trust in being willing to talk with you about these issues. 

If your student seems frustrated and/or angry with a university-related issue, whether it pertains to grades, roommate conflict or something else, resist the temptation to "rescue" him/her by initiating phone calls or e-mails.  The ability to problem solve and communicate concerns with others will be invaluable to your student once he/she is in the workplace.

Don't be surprised if your student sets his/her own social schedule and sometimes neglects time with the family.  While this occurrence can be disappointing for families, it is often common.  Consult with your student before making social plans and be understanding in recognizing his/her need to spend time with friends. 

Discuss money issues openly and clearly with your student by communicating which expenses you will and won't cover over the break.

If there have been recent changes to your family's personal, health and/or financial situation, be sure to talk with your student about them rather than delay the news and risk he/she will hear it from someone else.

Use of the family car, curfews and chore duty are other areas that often require discussion. Regardless of what you decide, it is important to clearly express your thoughts on these matters with your student.

Don't be surprised if your family dynamics change while your student is home.  Siblings may or may not always be pleased to have to share space and/or remote controls, the family car and other items.  Take these adjustments in stride and realize that tensions often reflect a change in family dynamics rather than an inability to get along.

Enjoy your student.  Whether it includes spending bits of time conversing with your student at mealtimes and/or making plans for a family night out, it is important for family members to bond with one another and have fun.

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