As we approach Thanksgiving, it’s important to know that many families grapple with the challenges that come with this new chapter of their lives—including redefining the supporter-student relationship since students have moved away from home. It marks a time of change and adjustment that may become apparent as students return home for winter break.
Challenges for students:
- Independence and Responsibility: For several months now, students have had to manage their daily lives independently. Balancing classes, social activities, and self-care can be overwhelming, and they may find themselves missing the structure and support of their home life but—at the same time—may chafe when expected to relinquish their independence once they return home.
- Homesickness: The familiar surroundings, routines, and faces they experience over break periods can lead to homesickness. Students may struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness as they adjust to their new environment and may be reluctant to return to campus life.
Challenges for supporters:
- Letting go: It can be challenging for supporters to accept their child is growing up and needs more space for independence. Letting go and allowing them to make their own choices, even if they make mistakes, can be emotionally difficult.
- Communication challenges: Finding the right balance between staying connected and giving their student space is a common struggle. Supporters may worry about their student’s well-being and want frequent updates, while students may want more autonomy.
Tips for students:
- Set expectations: Have an open and honest conversation with your parents or guardians about your expectations for communication. Let them know how often you’ll reach out and what kind of updates they can expect. Being proactive can help alleviate their concerns.
- Create a support system: Establish connections with peers and mentors on campus. Building a support network can help combat feelings of homesickness and provide you with people who understand what you’re going through.
- Stay organized: Develop time management and organizational skills to handle your newfound responsibilities effectively. This will reduce stress and help you feel more in control of your life.
Tips for supporters:
- Respect boundaries: Understand that your child needs space to grow and make their own decisions. It’s essential to respect their autonomy and let them learn from their experiences, even if it means making mistakes. They may chafe under rules and schedules at home, being used to more independence on campus.
- Open communication: Keep the lines of communication open but be sensitive to their needs. Let your child know that you’re there for them whenever they need support but avoid overwhelming them with constant messages or inquiries.
- Visit and connect: If possible, plan occasional visits to your student on campus to experience their world and to spend quality time together. This allows you to stay involved in your student’s life and create cherished memories while they adjust to their new surroundings.
Finding balance: Both students and supporters need to understand that this transition is a process that takes time. It’s crucial to find a balance that works for both parties. Communication, understanding and patience are key components of a successful adjustment. Remember that your relationship is evolving—not ending—and by fostering respect, understanding and open communication, you can strengthen your bond while giving students the space they need to thrive.