Support Your Student – January Transitions
January 25, 2017
The new semester is in full-swing at HBU, and your household is likely looking very different than it was a few weeks ago. Many parents were sad to see their students go back, longing for more time to spend with them. Other parents, looking forward to returning to a normal schedule, could not wait to send their student back. Perhaps you had mixed emotions. Your students did, too. Several students have expressed to me how excited they were to return to campus to see their friends and even attend class. Others have lamented the loss of freedom that signified an abundance of time to sleep, watch Netflix, and eat home-cooked meals.
No matter how you feel about your student returning to campus, the spring means another period of transition for you and your family. Each semester brings new challenges to students and, in turn, to their supporting families. Here are some challenges your student may be facing this month and how you can best support them through it.
- Major Confusion
The second semester is often a time of great change for students. Many first-year students come back from their break with a completely new outlook on their college experience. Perhaps they struggled in classes they thought they would excel in. Perhaps they found they did not love biology as much as they had always dreamed. Or maybe they found a new passion they had never before discovered in an anthropology course. Whatever the case, many first-year students use the new semester as an opportunity to change their major. Be supportive in your student’s decision to switch majors. At least 50% of college students switch their majors at least once, and of those, 50% change at least three times before they graduate! Sometimes, parents are worried that their student will choose a major that has no real impact after college, but many students who graduate end up in completely different career fields than their major (in fact, 32% of college graduates say they have never worked in a field directly related to their major!). The value of a completed degree exceeds the importance of a major selection.
- New Identities
Students often utilize the second semester to re-evaluate other areas of college life. Many students join new organizations, find new friends, and try out new hobbies. If your student decides to drastically change their hairstyle or try out a new “look,” take a deep breath. There may be several phases of newness that accompany your student’s college experience. Many students discover their identities by trying out new things, and it is all part of the gaining-independence process. You may also find your student has completely different viewpoints than they used to have- politically, spiritually, and educationally. This is part of their growing experience and search to understand their individual identity. If you are struggling with watching your child change, turn to others who have children in college, and you will find you are not alone. Realize that some of these changes may stick around, and others often fade into the background after a few months.
Most changes and new identities are completely normal, but if your student is feeling distressed and showing signs of depression or anxiety, encourage them to seek help. HBU has free counseling services for enrolled students.
- Changed Communication
You may experience a change in the communication pattern with your son or daughter. Last semester, they may have called you several times a day, and now you rarely hear from them (or vice versa). This change in communication also goes hand-in-hand with your student’s identity and independence development. As your student figures out how to navigate college, he or she is also figuring out how to include family in the process. If you are struggling with how much or little you are hearing from your student, make sure you set clear expectations with your son or daughter. Also, don’t forget the phone works both ways. Many parents do not want to intrude on their student’s college life and worry they will interrupt, but students often want to hear from their families as much as their families want to hear from them.
Your student may call you this semester with a small crisis and act like the world is falling apart. Unless the world is actually falling apart and your child is in danger, listen. Ask questions. Try your best to only listen and support, but do not offer a resolution. This is a great time for your student to learn how to problem-solve and handle their own matters, especially in regards to a professor or class issue. I can assure you that faculty do not like hearing from students’ parents interceding on their child’s behalf. It takes the accountability away from your student and hinders their development in responsibility and independence (qualities all employers are looking for).
If you are looking for other ways to support your student, stay tuned! We will have a new article at the end of each month to help you navigate supporting your child.
The Parent & Family Newsletter and Blog is written by Teal Keller, Coordinator of First & Second Year Experience. If you have parent-related questions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.