What to Expect When Your College Freshman Comes Home for the Holidays
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
After three-plus months of living at school, your college freshman has gotten used to being on his or her own. And you've become accustomed to a quieter house.
But now he/she's coming home for the holidays, and your household routine is about to be disrupted.
Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Butler University, says parents need to be prepared to navigate those waters.
“Their student is going to have a stronger desire for independence,” he said. “He or she has had several months to figure out how late they want to stay in bed, how long they want to stay up at night and how late they stay out. Parents are going to see a changed individual as it relates to those daily habits. They should also notice more maturity, and more introspection, perhaps.”
To keep order – and structure – Johnson recommends that parents maintain rules their student would be used to and expects to come back to. Like curfew.
“But you don't want to go to an extreme – being too strict or saying I don't care,” he said. “Loosen the rules, but don't get rid of them. Even though they want more independence, there has to be a pragmatic approach. It's only been a few months they've been away. They continue to need structure.”
Johnson said parents also should make the most of this time to ask a lot of questions about what's happening in their student's life in four broad areas: day to day living; finances; health; and the future.
Day to day: He recommends asking: How are classes going? Tell me about faculty members. Talk to me about your grades, your friends, your activities. “You want to make sure they're engaged in the campus community,” he said. “Because that's really what's going to keep them there: How did they make a connection and have they found that niche in their first semester?”
Finances: Your student is also starting to develop life skills, so you should ask: How are you managing your money? What major expenses are you expecting when you return to school? Are you considering options for earning additional funds such as student work or an off-campus job to off-set college expenses?
Health: Are they taking care of themselves? Eating right? Exercising? Studying late in the residence hall or library? “Get into well-being issues to make sure they're taking care of themselves,” Johnson suggested.
The future: Ask: What's coming up? How are your grades? What are you doing next semester? What are your spring break plans? What are your summer plans? Work? Internship? Coming home? “They need to start working on that as soon as they get back to school in January,” he said.
“During their first semester, students do a lot of testing of the waters, and they have probably learned some valuable lessons,” Johnson said. “Whether they'll tell parents that right away, probably not. That's the reason for the probing questions. Through that reflection and those conversations, that's where you'll hear the maturity. If you're just looking at physical changes, those won't be as apparent. It'll be in the conversations and the probing of their experiences.”
But, Johnson cautioned, don't expect answers in the first 24 hours.
“They're probably going to sleep,” he said. “Give them time to acclimate to the room they used for 18 years.”
Dr. Levester Johnson, better known as L.J. on Butler University's campus, became the vice president for student affairs in December 1997. The Milwaukee native joined Butler in 1992 as the assistant dean of students for residence education. To schedule an interview with Levester Johnson, contact Marc Allan, (317) 940-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find other Butler University experts, visit http://www.butler.edu/experts/.
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