Well, at least not right away.
You’ve anxiously awaited Thanksgiving Break to have your student home from college. You expect that this first real break home will require some adjustments on everyone’s part, but you can’t wait for the chance to talk to your student.
How, then, could we possibly suggest that you not talk to your student?
What we’d like to suggest is that you take more time this break to listen to your student instead of talking. Try to sit back a little and see what unfolds. Read your student’s mood. (He’s going to be exhausted, so he may just want to sleep at first.) You might throw in a few questions, but not many. And keep any questions open-ended and light. Don’t ask about every detail of life at college. (This is going to be hard.) Don’t press for information about grades and classes. (This may be even harder.)
Take time this break to listen. Provide opportunities for your student to talk. Your student will want to spend time with his friends, but offer an invitation for a cup of coffee, a shopping trip, a chance to cook a meal together or go to a game or event together. And then sit back. The less you talk, the more you may be surprised at what your student shares. The less you talk, the more you’ll hear what your student has to say. Sharpen your listening skills.
Stay tuned to whether your student may be looking for an opportunity to talk or to share something with you. Sometimes we miss those moments because we’re busy planning what we need to say – or asking the wrong questions. By waiting and watching to see what unfolds, you may allow your student the chance to lead you where he needs to go. And remember that he may or may not need you to tell him what to do. He may simply need a sounding board. Listening may be all that is required.
Of course, you may need to ask a few questions to “prime the pump” and get conversation going, but choose your questions carefully. Ask how your student’s friends are doing. As he talks about someone else, he may be sharing his own feelings or opinions. Read between the lines. At some point, you may want to ask your student about his plans for Winter Break. Ask whether there is anything he wants you to think about or needs you to do before he comes home for the longer break. Ask whether he thinks it would be a good idea to talk about expectations or house rules for the longer Winter Break.
Ask questions – but only a few. Listen a lot. Think twice before you share your opinion. Provide listening space and time.
There’s a guarantee that the college student who comes home for Thanksgiving Break is not the high school student you dropped off on Move-in Day. The changes may seem small, or they may feel more dramatic. You may like them, or you may have reservations. Take time to simply get to know this new person. Use Thanksgiving Break to lay the foundation for a longer Winter Break.
So yes, talk to your student, but listen more. Both you and he may be pleasantly surprised.