"Home for the Holidays"

When welcoming your sons and daughters home for the holidays, be prepared! Young adults learn so much about themselves their first semester away at college. They are developing into young adults, gaining independence and figuring out how to rely on themselves. Be open to their growth, and be as supportive as you can to the challenges they face. Here are some tips:

College freshmen and sophomores go through a grief and loss period as they reflect on high school, old friends and the security of living under their parents’ roof. They may be losing touch with these parts of their past and they will grieve over this loss. When they come home for the holidays, allow them space to scurry around trying to reconnect with those people, places and things. Do what you can to provide them with some old comforts such as a favorite meal, and let them know you will always be there for them.

Academic Struggles
College is their job right now and should be their number one priority. When they pile their plates high with extra-curricular activities or part-time jobs, they may not be able to put forth the effort required to make good grades. Encourage them to focus on their classes, and make strong connections with their professors. If their sport or job does take up a lot of their time, encourage them to take a smaller load of classes. Taking a variety of courses is important in helping them choose a major or a career. Encourage them to explore all options and don’t pressure them into choosing a path too soon. Let your son or daughter know that they can get assistance with time management, study skills, tutoring and career exploration at the Student Success Center (251.442.2292).

Personal Issues
College presents new relationships, new pressures, new responsibilities and a new lifestyle. If your son or daughter talks to you about issues at school, they may only need to vent and use you as a sounding board. If you listen and give them support and encouragement, that is usually enough to help them overcome obstacles. When you are not sure whether or not you should offer advice, just ask, “Is there anything I can do?” and let them tell you what they need from you. When your kids do ask for assistance, it’s a good idea to ask them how they would solve the problem at hand before making suggestions or taking action. By saying something like, “I have some ideas about that; but first, what do you think?” you give them an opportunity to practice their own problem-solving skills, as well as build self-confidence.

Identity Development
Be tolerant of lifestyle choices your son or daughter makes so long as they are not clearly self-destructive. Keep criticism to a minimum. Your child needs and craves your approval and acceptance now more than ever, even if he or she seems not to. Allow your son or daughter to make mistakes. Let your child know that you do not consider mistakes to be disastrous and that you have made mistakes, too. Give your son or daughter as much freedom as possible, even if that makes you a bit uneasy. Going out with friends, staying out late at night, making choices and experiencing their natural consequences are all part of the process of growing up. Give your son or daughter “permission” to separate from you. Holding on and trying to protect them from life will not help them to become responsible adults or to develop their own sense of competence.

Enjoy the holidays with your families!

Adapted from an article by Breeann Gorham, Counseling Intern at Alma College