Our college kids will be headed home for Thanksgiving or some may have to stay on campus to prepare for finals and be home in December for the holidays. We thought we'd offer some tips that can help foster open conversation with your kids in order to check in with how they are really doing. There's a lot going on in the world right now and kids are dealing with a lot of hurt and pressures.
Home for the Holidays Tip #1: The use of open ended questions helps to foster openness and keep the conversation going. They are meant to deepen understanding and encourage thoughtful thinking. Closed-ended questions result in yes/no answers and typically quickly end a conversation.
Examples of open-ended questions can be "How did your experience of _____ impact your situation? How are you managing your time and energy these days? How are your struggles with your Biology class affecting the rest of your time?
Home for the Holidays Tip #2
Listen more, talk less. The most impactful feedback I receive as a therapist is that kids wish that their parents would just listen more. Yes, we have life experiences, wisdom and opinions to offer that are highly important, however, to foster open communication, we have to teach ourselves to close our mouths and open our ears. There will be a time and place to share your thoughts, just not in the middle of their time to share.
Home for the Holidays Tip #3:
Connect before you correct! Before we judge, criticize or complain about our kids choices or behavior, consider leaning in for understanding first. Validate, reflect, or acknowledge your kids before correction. This is another way to foster open communication and to keep the conversation going. We want to understand what is contributing to their choices, behaviors and actions first before we act on them ourselves.
Home for the Holidays Tip #4:
Validation is not the same as agreement! This statement applies for every age and every relationship! We do not have to agree with our kids choices, opinions and feelings in order to validate them. They are not the same thing. Validation is acknowledgment that those choices, opinions and feelings matter. The conversation you may have where you disagree or have concerns can come later. This is so important to foster open communication!
Home for the Holidays Tip #5:
Listen for healthy decision-making. This isn't JUST about whether they are drinking, vaping for partying too much. This also refers to how they are doing with time-management, dietary choices, sleep habits, study habits and interacting socially. Are they using their resources affectively? Are they asking for help, do they know how to ask for help? Open communication can help you listen for these important hints!
Home for the Holidays Tip #6: Know and understand the difference between Struggling and Failing. Struggling IS NOT failing. Struggling is still trying and leaning into difficulties and challenge. Struggling is progress and/or persistence and a "normal" part of life. Failing is a lack of trying and/or an avoidance of change. Failure is shutting down and/or being "done".
Check yourself on what you're measuring as failure. Do not assume because one has good grades, they are doing well. Grades are not the only measurement of failure or success. Listen for how they respond to painful experiences. Do they avoid or a "peace out" of their experience. Or do they "lean in" and keep trying? Listen for their ability or inability to care for themselves even when it's hard. Listen for their ability or inability to use resources around them to deal with the struggle.
Home for the Holidays Tip #7: Know and understand the difference between sad and lonely AND depression and isolated. Being sad is a normal reaction to difficult times in life. But usually, the sadness goes away with a little time. Sometimes, one semester is not adequate to measure their mood. Depression is different—it is a mood disorder that may cause severe symptoms that can affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating, or working. Depression affects their activities of daily living.
It’s also normal to feel like you want to be alone sometimes. Downtime can be healthy. You may want to just be alone in a quiet place to recharge. You don’t always need to be around people or socialize. Especially if your kid is an introvert. Many can feel lonely when transitioning into a new experience and struggle to make a new friend group. This is "normal" and different from isolation. Isolation is disengagement over time and can be a sign of Depression.
If you need help assessing the level of concern for your kids mental status or needs, call or click for options and schedule an appointment. Click HERE for send a contact form. We have a variety of counseling options to fit your needs and ability to pay. Call us if you'd like to speak to our intake coordinator, 210-490-4419.