By Jessica Vician
Your college freshman is back home after completing his or her first term. You’re so happy to have your child home, but what do you do now? As you have probably learned, your job as a parent didn’t stop when your child went away to school. He or she might have been homesick and called crying, or maybe didn’t call at all because he or she was so busy and having fun. Regardless of how your child coped while at school, you should use this break as an opportunity to talk about this new life and find out how things are going.
When children leave home and live on their own for the first time, even in a dormitory, they need to learn how to take care of responsibilities without the help of mom or dad. You should check in on how your child is handling several big changes. Too often, those students who are overwhelmed by college life, end up dropping out over the holidays. Be as supportive as possible to help motivate your child to keep going or even just to reaffirm that your love and support is still there and still unconditional.
- School. How are your child’s grades? Has he or she found an effective studying routine? Ask about most and least favorite classes, and find out why. If you also went to college, you can bond with your child over similar likes and dislikes. It is also important to address any concerns you might have about your child’s grades or courses at this time. If he or she is performing poorly, offer tips on improving study habits and focusing on academics.
- Career. When you are asking your child about courses he or she likes, watch your child’s facial expressions. If your child’s eyes light up when talking about a certain class, he or she is clearly passionate about the subject. If your child has not yet declared a major, suggest exploring career options related to the subjects that he or she is passionate about. Even if your child has declared a major and is happy with that choice, talk about a double major or a minor in the other subject for extra experience.
- Health. Has your child gained or lost a significant amount of weight since being away? Has he or she been sick frequently? These are signs that your child might be having trouble managing stress or taking care of him or herself without parents there to help. Ask your child what types of food he or she is eating. Make sure it is a balanced diet with protein, vegetables, fruits, and enough water. While weight gain or loss can be a touchy subject, focus the conversation on nutrition and exercise, as getting the proper nutrition will help your child focus better when studying, perform better at school, get sick less frequently, and be happier and healthier. Exercise is a great stress reliever and boosts endorphins, which help put us in a better mood. This lesson will be important for the rest of your child’s life.
It’s important to check in with your child regularly, even when he or she has moved out of your home. Your child is going through many changes and learning how to be an independent adult, which is more difficult than it sounds. Asking specific questions about how your child is doing not only helps you learn how to help him or her but also communicates that you still care.