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Conversation Over the Holidays

By the time you receive this newsletter, we will have completed over 80 % of the fall semester.  WOW!  It has flown by.  Over the last 3 months, there have been HUGE things happening in the lives of our students.  Between daily living, relationships, classes/exams, and a myriad of commitments and activities, your student has been through a lot. 

When they are home for the holidays make sure to celebrate their successes with academics, promising relationships, evolving theories of life, or co-curricular achievement.  It is so vital to encourage their growth, maturity, and leadership. 

Be aware, too, that your child may be struggling with various parts of this college life.  Take note of changes in personality or behavior.  Has he or she lost or gained weight?  Does he or she appear unfocused or not achieving up to their normal standards?  Do you know something is different, but not sure what?   

This newsletter contains some helpful tips on how to talk with your student about his or her experience at the college.  In addition, there are two personal reflections from parents on their students’ experience at Southwestern.

CONVERSATION OVER THE HOLIDAYS 

You might hear the following words from your new freshman, your mid pointer and even your graduating savvy senior.   We have provided some suggestions and things to keep in mind.

I think I made the wrong choice, because ...

YOUR REPLY:  Well, maybe we should talk about this. 

REMEMBER: Challenges come in all shapes and sizes.  Academic courses, majors, intended careers, roommates, and relationships are things your student is constantly evaluating.  If the issue is academically related, make sure your student is speaking to his or her professor and academic advisor.  Tutoring help is available at the Student Success Center.  The Career Planning program can help your son or daughter get a plan for life after Southwestern that may help life at Southwestern more valuable.  If the issue concerns roommates, adjustment to college life, a relationship, etc., the Student Life staff can help.  The campus is filled with people eager to help.  

I need a fresh start at another school ...

YOUR REPLY:  Transferring may not be the answer.  And dropping out of college probably isn’t the answer.  It’s likely that some of the things that aren't quite right are going to be packed up and taken with your child to your next school or brought back home.

REMEMBER:  Don’t assume the answer is for your student to just to drop out of school and come home.  Young people in their late teens and early 20s face real difficulties.  Overcoming them is essential to their development and their self-confidence.  If they are having trouble, ask how you can help.  Do they need coping tips, an action plan, an intervention, or someone to just listen?

My coach/activity director doesn't value my potential and the contribution I could make...

YOUR REPLY:  Have you talked with your coach or the faculty member who leads your activity?  Often, communication will clear the air.  Your student may also need to be patient, work harder, and wait for his or her break.  There are many talented students at the college.  It takes extra effort to stand out.

REMEMBER:  Don’t take control.  Allow your student to navigate his or her way through the issue.  Be supportive, but allow your child to explore options and find the right solution. 

It costs too much.

YOUR REPLY:   Students are very aware of the financial burdens their parents are shouldering to make college possible.  If students are borrowing money to go to college, they know the burden of repaying their debt is real.  Usually, when a student says “it costs too much,” what they are really saying is “to me, it’s not worth it."  Ask your student what things are making Southwestern “not worth it” and talk about what changes would improve things. 

REMEMBER:   If the issue is truly financial, encourage your student to speak with someone in the financial aid office about their situation.  If they feel uncomfortable doing that, they can also share their concerns with their resident advisor, hall director, coach, activity director, or a member of the Student Life staff.    

It's too hard.

YOUR REPLY:  I know it seems that way, but you need to get used to it.  Here’s the truth:  Life gets harder and more complicated from now on.  Think of SC as a place where you can gradually build some muscle and grow confidence in your work ethic, study habits, social skills, and knowledge.  Out in the job market, employers are interested in people that work hard and persevere in difficult situations. 

REMEMBER:   If there are signals of concern, don’t panic, and don’t overdo it providing help.   As your student deals with personal or academic difficulties, he or she will develop strong skills for dealing with the challenges in life.  The goal is to develop college graduates who are independent and strong leaders as adults. 

I hope this holiday season is a joyous and restful.    I know you will be excited to see your student, make sure to love them and give them plenty of TLC to face the rest of the semester AND finals.

Blessings.  Dawn Pleas-Bailey

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