4 College Conversations for Families During Thanksgiving Break

Use the time spent together to touch on these important topics.

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Family Enjoying a Thanksgiving Meal Together

For many college students, Thanksgiving break is the first time they return home for an extended period of time. This can be a great reunion with friends and family as well as an opportunity for parents and students to have several important conversations.

Here are some of the issues on which our family likes to check in over breaks.

JULIE:

Thanksgiving represents a good time for families to have important discussions in a relaxed setting.

1. Grades: By Thanksgiving break, students should have a good idea of how classes are going and will continue to go for the semester. This is a logical time for parents to check in to see how their child's grades are and if there are any issues that need to be addressed.

If your student is having challenges, help him or her research resources that the school has available to assist, such as tutoring and writing labs. Remind your student to make good use of professors' office hours, too. This is especially important for young students who may have been a bit apprehensive about doing that up to this point.

2. Social life: Parents usually have two big concerns where their students' social lives are concerned: the lack of one or too much of one. Thanksgiving break can be a time to broach this subject with your child.

Who are their friends? How are they spending their free time? Does the balance between work and play seem healthy?

[Find out why and how to get involved at college.]

LINDSEY:

Although I talk to my parents several times a week while at school, these conversations usually revolve around daily activities, goings-on at home, and what my dog and little brother are up to. Taking the time to discuss deeper issues, however, shouldn't be overlooked.

These are some of the concerns I brought up with my parents on my first extended break and have continued to discuss since then.

1. Health: At school, I don't have access to my pediatrician, dentist, dermatologist, and other health professionals. I am close enough to home that I can make a trip back if anything serious comes up, but the majority of my healthcare now takes place in my college town. Things like insurance and co-pays can be confusing to navigate for the first time, so make sure you and your parents are on the same page.

[Read about staying healthy in college.]

Also, many families overlook mental health conversations, simply because it can be more difficult to discuss than physical health alone. Most schools have convenient counseling and psychological programs on campus. If this is something you think you want to look into—or have transferred your previous therapy to a new provider on campus—considering discussing it.

2. Career aspirations: Your career may seem far off, especially if you're a freshman, but touch base with your parents about what you're leaning toward. If you're an underclassman, this can simply be a few professions or companies you think you'd enjoy working for. If you're an upperclassman, these should be things like networking you've done, résumés, work samples, and internships.

Just as students can change their major several times throughout college, they also may change their career goals within those majors. Explain to your parents where you see yourself after college, and make sure they're on board. For instance, one of my friends came into college as a business major, and by Thanksgiving break he was studying theater set design. Don't surprise your parents a full year in with any changes you've made to your plans.