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Turkey Talk: Conversations with Your College Student

Diane Schwemm


Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reconnect with your student — especially if this is the first time they’ve been home since move-in day.

Pace yourself! Don’t try to have all these conversations at once, and also don’t fret if you can’t get to all of them. Winter break will be here soon.

Chat #1

(While filling a shopping cart at the grocery store or helping them sort through the mountains of dirty laundry they brought home.)

Consider having a practical conversation about what’s going to happen during the holiday week. (You can also do this before they travel.)

  • What family activities do you expect your student to join? Have they made plans with friends yet? Being on the same page can prevent conflict and disappointment.
  • They'll bring home a lot of school work. Talk about how and when that will fit in.
  • Revisit house rules about going out, car use, quiet hours, etc. (Read this first.)

Chat #2

(While watching cranberries pop on the stove for homemade sauce, or whipping cream for the pies.)

Having caught up on sleep, your student is ready for a more reflective conversation. (Your role is to listen and be a sounding board.) How are they feeling about college so far? Is there still some homesickness? Have they made new friends who feel like “real” friends?

Settling in takes time, so it’s not necessarily a sign of trouble if your student isn’t wildly enthusiastic about college, but it is important to get a sense of their emotional state and be thinking about how best to support them in a strong finish to the semester.

Chat #3

(While setting the table for the feast.)

On that subject, back to the practical stuff. What is their plan for wrapping up coursework and being in a solid position for finals? Is there a class where they should be more proactive about getting help — going to office hours, joining a study group, finding a tutor?

Check in about their tech. Is their computer holding up — can they count on it? Students still using an old high school laptop may be overdue for a replacement. A new laptop or tablet could be in order, or a back-up hard drive or new charger. There’s nothing worse than an electronics failure during finals.

Chat #4

(While doing dishes together after the feast.)

Now that you can get a close-up look, do they seem to be taking care of their health (not always the highest priority for college kids)? What are they eating? Are they sleeping okay? How about exercise? They may not think they have time for the latter — you can remind them that being active isn’t a luxury but will actually improve their productivity.

Find wellness information to share with your student here.

Chat #5

(While tossing a football in the park to burn off some calories.)

This one is fielder’s choice (I know, wrong sport):

  • Is their money holding out — have they been sticking to a budget?
  • What class do they enjoy the most? Are they ready to declare a major or thinking about changing their major?
  • What’s the plan for next year’s housing —will they live on campus or look for an apartment?
  • Are they considering Greek life? Study abroad?

Chat #6

(During a last quiet moment before they head back to campus by car, train or plane.)

What's left to say but that you love them? (Repeat as needed.)

Diane Schwemm is a writer and senior editor at CollegiateParent. She and her husband are parents of a college student and two recent graduates. In her off hours, she likes to read, hike and garden and, thanks to the influence of her family, appreciates ballet and basketball equally.

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