Your college freshmen sons and daughters will be returning home soon for the Christmas holidays. Be ready.
Those who have never been away from home before may have serious cases of homesickness and may not want to go back to college. Or, they may think that they have chosen the wrong college and want to switch schools. Others may be discouraged because they are doing well academically and do not know what to do about it.
This is the time to use your listening skills to keep the lines of communication open. Your children may be hurting and may need your support.
Avoid the following closed responses: “Don’t get so worked up about it, you’ll make yourself sick.” “If you had studied harder, you would be passing.” “You are over- reacting, there is really no problem.” “You’re acting like a baby — grow up.” “Everything will work out for the best.”
All of these responses result in stopping further communication. Instead of closed responses, try using reflective listening in which you respond to the feelings expressed, not just the words. Your sentence could be: “You feel (unhappy, scared, lonely) because you’re (homesick, overwhelmed, afraid you won’t make the grade). Your response should acknowledge your child’s feelings and convey your willingness to listen. Your son or daughter can now continue the conversation because he or she knows you are supportive.
Help your freshman son or daughter to understand that they are not alone. Most freshmen find this time very difficult no matter what school they attend. It is usually not a good idea for students to change colleges in freshman year. If they need to change, junior year is a much better time. Help them to succeed where they are. Most unhappy freshmen eventually become very happy sophomores.
Help them to reach out when they are having difficulty. Colleges have resources but it is the students’ responsibility to seek them out. They need to go to the professor during his office hours and ask for help. That is why he has office hours. If they do not know how to use the resources available, they might hire a successful senior student to be their tutor/mentor/coach to help them to negotiate the system. They might get together with other students to form student study groups.
If they are having difficulty getting their work done, they might use their problem solving skills to find a solution rather then giving up. Some students cannot remember what they read. One solution might be to get a small tape recorder (by the way, that is a good Christmas present) and read out loud into the recorder. They can then play-back when they want to review. They can also record lectures.
They can learn how to skim when doing an assignment. Read the first and last paragraph before reading the whole chapter. It also help to have a question in mind when reading. All of these are study skills which most successful learners do automatically but others have to learn to do.
Another suggestion for Christmas presents is to buy some of the excellent books found in good book stores on how to study, how to read for meaning, how to write a term paper and so on. Read the book first and see if you find it useful. Do not just buy for the title because some books are more helpful than others.
Make this Christmas a time of joy for the whole family but especially for that scared, unhappy college freshman,