Holiday tips from fellow parents

Wondering what to expect when your student comes home for the holidays? Check out these tips from your fellow Calvin parents:

Let them sleep! They are coming home exhausted after a stressful semester. This includes the car ride home—you may be ready to hear all about their first semester, but your student may be too tired to talk. Likewise, give them space; they share a small room at school and may be looking for alone time.

Stock your pantry and fridge with their favorite foods or make their favorite meals. That will warm their hearts—and calm their stomachs.

What changes at home have occurred since they left? Whether you’ve redecorated their bedroom or decided to drop your cable TV package, mention it before they come home so the change doesn’t throw them off so abruptly when they return.

They will want to see their high school friends. Sometimes this will be great (you will like seeing their high school friends too, if they hung out at your house in high school) and sometimes it won't be what they had hoped and it will make them sad. Be there to listen, just like you were in high school. Leave them time with friends at the start of break and plan any extra family activities for later in their time home, when they might be starting to process how friendships are changing.

And if they are missing their friends from Calvin during this “long” break at home, be grateful—this is a sign of how well they have settled in and that they are where they are meant to be.

How about a shared prayer or devotional time together? Don’t force this, but if you sense their interest, it could be the time over break that you learn the most about their life.

Remember that they have been living on their own as adults with their own responsibilities and schedules. Ask, don’t tell, them about participation in events. Respect them as responsible adults but ask that they show you respect as well. The high school curfew no longer applies, but you can ask them to communicate with you as a responsible adult would if they’ll be out late, or to tell you if they’ll be home for meals.

Discuss expectations in advance: Will they need to share the family car with a younger sibling? How will you handle family meals? Be gently firm on your expectations, and then be prepared to show grace when it doesn't work out as you had hoped.

What are their expectations for work? Do they hope to pick up hours at a former employer or seasonal work, or are they expecting “down time” for two weeks? One option to suggest: Make their holiday “work” research for a summer job or internship.

Get comfortable with biting your tongue. After just one college semester students are more confident in their independence and their opinions than before and may be more likely to critique what’s happening on the home front. Just smile and nod.

Instead of offering your opinions on their grades or school activities, ask open-ended questions: What have you learned about yourself this semester? What will you do the same or differently next semester?

Keep the big picture in perspective. You are nearing the end of the time they will be coming home for breaks. Things like a cup of coffee together in the kitchen, leaving them a love note and $10 to grab a snack when they're out and about, a special treat with their name in it, or the gift of not putting guilt trips on them for not meeting your expectations will reap rewards down the road.

I need information about...

A Time of Transition for You, Too

By Bob Crow, dean of student development

This is a significant time in the life of your family. And while most of the attention is rightly directed toward your son or daughter and the transition that he or she will be making in coming to Calvin College, the primary purpose of this resource guide is to equip you with some tools that might come in handy as you adjust to this transition yourself.

Perhaps the most important fact for you to remember is that you are still the parent, and your daughter or son still needs you! Moreover, while we will care deeply for your child, in no way can Calvin College assume your role as parent. There is no way that we can.

Calvin College is a learning community that is not content to distance itself from students or to allow these young adults to flounder. These are our students. These are image bearers in God’s wonderful creation. And while they may be legally classified as adults, for traditional-aged students (18-24 years of age), we more often refer to them as emerging or novice adults. They are making the important transition from youthfulness into adulthood. And we believe they need to do this in a challenging yet supportive environment.

Colleges that do the best educating are those that have a healthy tension between challenging students and supporting students. At Calvin, we work deliberately to balance our support with appropriate challenge. At times this will mean an embrace; at other times it will mean a firm word. Your student can count on an environment of love, concern, support and counsel from faculty, staff and administrators who are seeking the very best for him or her. And finally, here is some quick wisdom in a nutshell for you to consider as you think of your son or daughter’s smooth transition into Calvin College:

C – Communicate regularly. As in every relationship, communication is key. And what we hear from students is that written communication is most valuable to them. Write a letter or e-mail them regularly with news from the home front.

A – Always pray. You have invested yourselves in the lives of your children. Never forget that your most important role now is to pray for them. And, I might add, please pray for us, asking that God would enable us to be faithful to Him in our work as members of this Christian institution of higher learning.

L – Listen. More than your advice, your son or daughter needs not only to have your ear when he or she talks with you but also to know that you hear what is being said (not what you want to hear). Ask open-ended questions and then provide the space for your son or daughter to respond…without interruptions, without your telling him or her exactly what to do.

V – Voice your support and encouragement. Instead of telling your son or daughter what to do, bite your lip, hold the majority of your opinions, and emphasize that you believe in him or her and are confident in his or her ability to make the right choices.

I – Inspire your son or daughter. Demonstrate interest in what he or she is learning. Be a role model, demonstrating that learning is a lifelong, joyful quest. Ask penetrating questions about what has most surprised them or what has most challenged them through their classes or co-curricular activities.

N – Never forget that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember when your children first learned to walk? They fell a few times, right? So, too, with their college experience; they will make some mistakes. Allow them the grace and the room to fall.