Sneezes, Turkeys, and Changes
November at Princeton is a somewhat calmer time of year. The primary issues students often face at this juncture are the common cold and cough—and certainly this year, the possibility of the flu. Please encourage your student to remain aware of the need to wash her hands regularly, cover all sneezes and coughs, and report to the health center immediately at the first sign of possible flu symptoms. It is also important that he get enough rest, exercise regularly, and eat properly. If you think that your student is not taking adequate care of his health, please do nag her a bit.
The other concern that often arises now is the Thanksgiving visit home—at least for those students who are lucky enough to be able to do so. Coming a month later than the fall break, some students are now surprisingly anxious about returning home after the 3 months of relative freedom they have just enjoyed. She may have changed since the last time you saw her: longer hair, more confidence, new expressions, an irritating need to challenge your own political perspectives…prepare yourself a bit. Remember that she will appreciate your support, rather than criticism, through this transformational period. Recognize that while she may be going through many changes, in the long run, she will probably maintain many of the core values that you instilled in her.
Hopefully, the time home will be nothing but joyful. Or perhaps you will have to wait a while longer to see this altered “Princeton” child. Maybe he is planning to visit a friend’s family in the city, or a roommate’s place in New England. If he is remaining on campus, you might remind him that there are a number of other students who will be here as well—and that every year my wife and I invite students to our home for a turkey dinner.
What to Expect
What your student is experiencing:
- Stress levels remain high as some midterms continue, and many papers and projects are also due. Procrastinators may panic as they face the consequences of falling behind in coursework.
- They may continue to struggle with time management and balancing social activities with academics.
- They may get sick as the change in New Jersey’s weather brings on cold and flu season. Long periods of sleepless nights—due to too much fun, or too much work--may also begin to have a disabling effect.
- Some students may be struggling with their eating habits. The transition to the dining hall food and environment can be a difficult one, if students are not aware of their dietary needs. This is often the point when they either begin to gain some weight, or dramatically cut back on caloric intake—especially young women.
What you can do to help:
- Refer her to University resources such as University Health Service if she’s is sick, or Counseling and Psychological Services for counseling, if you think she’s not handling the stress very well. Encourage a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, sleep, diet, and relaxation.
- Send care packages! Remember to include cold/flu medications, tissues, cough drops, and anything needed to keep warm and dry as the winter approaches.
- Be available to listen to her concerns when she contacts you, but don’t worry if she doesn’t call/write/e-mail as often as you would like. She may be too wrapped up in school to remember to contact home.
- Be supportive of her academic progress without focusing on grades. Ask open-ended questions about what she’s learning, or why certain topics interest her, instead of asking about grades on tests or papers. She’s worried enough about it herself.
- On the other hand, if she really seems to be drowning, send her immediately to Dr. Caddeau.
- Be prepared for some alterations in behavior and attitudes if she returns for Thanksgiving—and embrace the chance to witness the growth.