Family Engagement

Dear families,

Now that winter break is around the corner, we want to share a special message from Counseling and Psychological Services and Student and Family Support:

Whether your Columbian is spending time with family and friends at home, here on campus, or elsewhere, the coming weeks are a great time for rest and relaxation.

Winter break can also be a time when stress and tensions come up for families and their college students. For a first-year student, after four months of him or her living independently, you may find that you have to loosen the reins a bit. For a sophomore, there might be stress about choosing a major. A junior might be anticipating a semester abroad or have anxiety about spring semester when close friends are away. A senior may have anxiety and fear about what to do after college. You, the families, can be helpful by making yourselves available to your students, listening closely to what they are going through, and giving them space to express themselves while also imparting your wisdom.

The college years are a time of life full of experimentation: with new friends, new values, new approaches to being a student, new discoveries about oneself. You may have mixed emotions, even disappointment, about some of these new experiences and how your student has approached them. You may want your student to study engineering and she may have discovered a love of literature and art. Your job is difficult. How can you encourage your student to develop his own voice but also make suggestions based on your life experience? If you come on too strong, then s/he might rebel for the sake of rebellion. That doesn't leave either of you in a good place. It is important to open your ears, eyes, and heart to what your son or daughter tells you. Take this opportunity to get to know your student from a new vantage point. This process can be difficult for you as well as for him or her. Communication is the key to a healthy relationship. Ask questions, be honest, and try to hold back from making snap judgments.

Remember, this time in your student’s life is about more than academics and other Columbia obligations. It’s about having fun, seeing New York, developing close relationships with peers and professors, just plain hanging out and exploring the world around them, not to mention sleeping, eating, and exercise.

You may still worry. What if your student is in trouble? Is she eating? Has he lost weight? Do you notice signs of depression or anxiety that are getting in the way of functioning? If you have concerns about whether he or she is working too hard, doing too much, or playing too hard, please remember that Counseling and Psychological Services (212-854-2878) and Student and Family Support (212-854-2446) are here, and we welcome calls for these and any other concerns you or your student may be experiencing.

We wish you and your families a safe and happy break.

Sincerely,

Counseling and Psychological Services and Student and Family Support