FAMILY CONSIDERATIONS

 

It surprises me how often I have encountered students who are having difficulties with academic pursuits and who then report (when I ask them) that they have had minimal, in fact sometimes NO, communication with their family about their status as a student.  This includes not only freshman just out of high school who have not really communicated with their parents about mutual expectations, but also students well into adulthood who have not communicated with their spouses, their own dependent children, or their roommate(s). 

 

At the time you begin school and for perhaps a few weeks in advance, you should ask those with whom you live to sit down, perhaps over a meal, so that everyone, YOU and THEY, have the opportunities to air expectations and ďget on the same pageĒ about the coming semester. You will be surprised at how much people assume about each otherís roles in this situation.  Often as the semester goes on, hurt feelings and resentments build up because unvoiced assumptions have been violated.  This can be avoided by, first, having a discussion about those assumptions and getting any misunderstandings out in the open before they happen; then having a second, brief, follow up discussion after a week or two to address anything that might have come to mind later as everyone thinks about what was said in the first meeting.

 

Before you have this discussion, you need to take some time to really think about how being a student is going to change your lifestyle and your place within the family/household.  Being a student is a considerable responsibility.  You need to itemize your needs for materials, access to the computer, time, space, quiet, transportation, absence from family events and reduced household responsibilities, and to clearly and politely convey these.  However, donít expect complete acquiescence in response.  Your parents/partner/kids/roommates may think you are asking for too much, or more than they can deliver.  Expect to hear about it if so.  Be prepared to compromise.

 

However, here is an important warning:  if it turns out later that you have overestimated your needs and end up having time on your hands, be very careful to pitch in and participate more than you had planned to.  If it becomes clear after a time that you are not going to need so many hours, or so much quiet Ė initiate a further discussion in which you acknowledge this and offer to resume more of your former responsibilities.  If you donít, you are going to find that your fellow family/household members are resentful, and that your credibility has suffered. No one wants to feel that a fellow family member has used his or her status as a student to get a free ride.

 

Finally, where possible and appropriate, involve your family members in your study activities, and keep them informed about whatís going on in your academic life. Ask your younger sibling or your spouse or your child to help you review your flash cards.  At dinner, talk about a special project you are working on, or a speech you made, or a funny incident in one of your classes.  In turn, listen to what others are doing and try to relate it to what you are studying.