Dear family: Give college students a break over the holidays

By Alice Potter, Staff Writer

When going home for the holidays, most college students are relieved to leaving the school life behind and getting to relax over the vacation, eating lots of food, visiting old friends, hanging out with pets they left at home, etc. Though these are all wonderful things that make the break so needed, one common denominator that many college students cringe at is family gatherings.

The whole family itself isn’t the issue many college students face, it’s certain family members. Many of my friends who attend college as well are least looking forward to visiting certain family as they feel they become a verbal punching bag for some. Being reprimanded for their choice of major, for not having a job, for not having a good enough job, for their clothes and the way they dress or the way their friends dress and on and on is not exactly the home-sweet-home family many look forward to spending time with.

I know the feeling of not being “good enough” for a portion of my relatives, and this is just another blow to my already shriveling self esteem, similar to my fellow college students.

Dear family members, yes all family members, for this Christmas please be kind to your younger relatives coming back from college. Friendly advice is not unprompted and repetitive suggestions to change their major, and neither is it bashing on the student’s choice of school without encouragement form the student. Also making unwarranted statements about the younger relative is embarrassing.

Right now your student in the family is going through much more than you can comprehend. Yes, you too might have been a college graduate, but times, sentiments, and education have changed. Right now he or she is in self-discovery mode, figuring out who they are, what they like, who they like, how they do hard work, and how to be a better person. You may not agree with all their answers, but if it is a bad decision, they will either let it go or adopt it in a way that makes them unique.

They may not have the answers as to what they would like to do when they graduate, but when they say “I don’t know,” it doesn’t mean they haven’t thought of it. A college student’s life revolves around passing classes, getting good grades, while still being able to find time to sleep and keep up a semi-functional social life, which are not easy things to do at this time. As a college student, I often wake up in panic in the middle of the night thinking of what I could possibly do with my major, coming up with some of the most ridiculous career ideas I could think of. Some of my family don’t understand. Our society is full of options, possibilities and careers are constantly expanding in their needs and wants, and like many, coming to a conclusive goal of what specific career I want at this time is absurd to me. We are still exploring our majors and figuring out all the details as to what aspect we find appealing, eventually we will find a career.

If you feel a need to play a guiding parental figure at this moment, unless you have that relationship with the younger relative from before initiation of their college life, refrain. A college student usually has at least one parent giving them unwarranted advice on how they should conduct themselves through these years. Positive and encouraging advice or guidance is not an issue, it’s the groundless opinions, the petty remarks and the insulting commentary that destroys the relationship between you and the young adult. In this period of their lives, these students need as much support as possible from their family. Many questions are going through their heads on weather they are right or wrong, if they will succeed or if they are making the right decisions. If they come to you for advice, please give them helpful direction rather than a rambling lecture, they will appreciate your input and likely come back for more advice later in life, thus building a lasting relationship.

Not having a job in college does not imply lack of knowledge of the importance of responsibility or independence. Often times, college is one of the first instances of doing laundry without supervision, getting sick without an older family member taking them to the doctor or trying to eat a balanced nutritious meal without resorting to a large tub of ice cream. Responsibility comes with time and experience. Young students learn quickly that their life has drastically altered when entering college, professors are not constantly available or responsive like high school teachers, there are no curfews or responsible hours of sleep, no ready cooked leftovers in the fridge, no person to remind you of appointments and special dates and nothing is readily given to you. Though the young adult may not know it, their sense of responsibility is already growing. These small ways in which they are maturing are big steps in the life of a college student. Though job experience and an extra income would be nice, a student should be focused on school and their own well being rather than overwhelming themselves which can lead to bad grade or a downward spiral in health.

So when your college attending family members come home for Christmas and you get to have that 20-minute chit-chat with them, tell them if you’re proud of them, talk to them about their classes and what interests them about their major, talk to them about your harder times in college and how you have an idea of how difficult it may be. If you would like to give advice, relate to them on a personal level, its a better way to get to know your family member in order to have a significant impact in their life.

A pillar of good spirit and a great relationships, my grandmother.

A pillar of good spirit and a great relationships, my grandmother.

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