Keeping the lines of communication open with your college student is key to nurturing a good relationship. But e-mails, texts and phone calls can be weak lines of communication during a busy semester. So take advantage of the face-to-face time you have with your student this winter break by having the following conversations:
Ask about the important relationships in your student’s life: roommates, new friends, old friends, romantic interests. Be prepared for your student to not want to share too much information in this area, and respect his need for privacy. But let him know that you’re here to listen.
Go over your student’s budget for the semester, and identify areas of overspending and ways to save. If he has scholarships, encourage him to write a follow-up letter to the committee or individual who granted him money and share how his semester went. Draft up a new budget with him for the Spring, taking into account any revisions that need to be made on the last budget. If he has a job, talk about how that has affected the other areas of his life.
Ask your student how he’s grown since summer. Gaining independence is an ongoing process, and you might have good opportunities to offer advice on gaining balance in his life. Lead with open-ended questions, like “What are some strengths you have that became apparent this last semester?” and “What are you proud of since you started college?” and “How are you different now than you were one year ago?”
Make sure your student understands that failure and weakness is a part of growth and gaining independence. Encourage him to talk openly about where he’s fallen short as well. Ask questions like, “What was difficult for you this last semester?” and “What’s a mistake you’ve made that taught you a good lesson?” and “What challenges do you already know you face when you go back to school?”
Of course, you can’t talk about college without bringing up classes and grades. Ask your student to share his semester grades with you, but also ask about what he learned in his classes and what interested him about certain subjects. Make sure he knows you’re proud of him, and if you have concerns about his performance, share that as well.