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January Break: Time to Reflect
For many parents and family, the next four weeks will be the first time your child will be home for an extended time since late last August. From my own parental experience, either one of two things happens in the first twelve hours. Either your child will talk non-stop and all you need to do is to occasionally nod. Or they will say nothing, text frantically to reconnect with home friends, and treat you as an innkeeper of a two or three star hotel/motel.
After this first phase of re-entry, what my two college children did was to enjoy an extended period of sleeping, followed by eating, another cycle of sleeping, then eating, you get the picture. Once they work through the sleep debt that most students experience in their first semester, they will emerge as out of a coma. It is in this time that you may get to hear them talk about friends, teachers, and classes.
The College opens on January 6th (first meal in Val is dinner Jan 5th) for the January Interterm. This is an informal unstructured time and is not required. There are interterm courses which you can find out about here. Formal classes start Thursday Jan 23rd, and most First Year Students do not come back until Jan 17th or so but they need to do nothing special to come back before that.
Somethings to talk about with your child:
Ask your child about grades. Some may already have their grades in some classes, all grades are due from Professors by Jan 3. Should you be a parent who has asked your child to waive their FERPA rights, you may yourself have access to the online tool that will provide them with their grades: AC_Data.
Open the door for them to talk with you about their social life. If possible, try to listen without judgement if you want them to talk with you. Listening is the key here. You may ask if they want to hear about your reactions, thoughts, ideas. Ask them about drinking, what they see, what others are doing, how it makes them feel.
Find out what experiences they have had this Fall that really excite their imaginations, opened a door for them, challenged a belief they may have had. Where do they see that interest taking them? Maybe this experience happened in the classroom but maybe not. Encourage them to think broadly about where their learning happened.
Has Amherst fallen short of their expectations and how might they take action to address changes for the next semester? Asking your child to take agency in adjusting his or her experience to improve aspects they are unhappy with helps them build coping and negotiation skills that will last a lifetime. Don't solve problems for them, but help them solve their own problem.
Mostly, just enjoy the house being full again, the dishes piling up in the sink and the loads of unwashed laundry that often accompanies a first semester student's arrival home.
Have a safe and peaceful Holiday! Happy 2014!