We’ve emphasized in many of our articles the importance of good communication with your college student. We think this is such an important topic that we’re planning a series of posts in the next few weeks with some communication suggestions. In the meantime, thinking not only about how you communicate, but also when and where you communicate may be helpful – especially if your student may be headed home for a break. You might enhance your chances of a good conversation – or doom it – simply by choosing your time and place carefully. Of course, there’s no exact answer for everyone. Knowing your student, and thinking about your family dynamic makes all of the difference. But here’s some food for thought.
Some possible good times and places for a conversation
- In the car – This is often a good place to have a conversation with anyone. Distractions may be fewer and there is something “safe” about legitimately not making eye contact as you both watch the road.
- In the kitchen – If you’re busy cooking or washing dishes, a casual conversation may seem less threatening. You might even invite your student to help you. As you’re both busy working, opportunities to chat may arise.
- At a coffee shop – Invite your student out for a cup of coffee. Just sit together and take time to chat. The conversation may never get past small talk, or this relaxed atmosphere may prompt some important conversations. Either way, you’ll enjoy some time with your student.
- On a walk – Take a walk together. Take a hike. Walk the dog. Go for a run. Get out and do something together. Just provide opportunities for conversations to happen.
- At the dinner table – maybe. The dinner table can be a good place to talk about important issues. As the family gathers, you have opportunities for casual conversation, which may lead to more substantive discussions. However, if you have a serious issue to discuss with your student, you may not want to do it during a meal with the entire family.
- On vacation. Go to the beach. Go skiing. Go camping. While you are away and everyone is more relaxed and away from the obligations of home, everyone may have more time and focus to be able to talk.
- In your student’s room – late at night. Remember that student time is not always parent time. Especially if your student has been living away at school, their inner clock may not mesh with yours. If you can keep your eyes open, try a late night conversation. This may be prime time for your student.
- At a scheduled meeting. If you need an extended or serious conversation, make a plan to sit down together at a time convenient for both of you. Give yourself, and your student, time to think about what you both need to say. Make an appointment with each other.
Some possible poor times and places for a conversation
- On cell phones. As convenient as cell phones make it for staying in touch with our students, there is a drawback to having a serious conversation with your student by cell phone. You have no idea where your student is, what your student is doing, or who your student is with. Your student may be at the dinner table with friends, may be driving the car, may be watching the game on TV. You may not have their true attention. Of course, a cell phone conversation is better than nothing, but choose this method carefully.
- At the dinner table – maybe. (See comments above) This may be a great opportunity for people to be together, but don’t set up a situation where your student avoids meals because they feel they will get either the third degree or a sermon.
- Anywhere in public.
- In your student’s room – early in the morning. (See comment about student inner clocks above!)
- As your student is headed out the door. As you see your student leaving, you may think of something you need to talk about. Use this as an opportunity to set up a time to talk later, but don’t hold them up and make them impatient.
Several of these suggestions may not work for you – or your family. Several of these suggestions are common sense. The important idea is that you take a moment to consider the opportunities and the roadblocks to good conversations. Try to maximize the good opportunities and minimize those awkward situations. Use conversational moments to air concerns or issues, smooth out problems and get to know your student all over again.