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 sometimes the possibility of the flu. Please encourage your student to wash their 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 they get enough rest, exercise regularly, and eat properly. If you think that your student is not taking adequate care of their health, please do nag them a bit.
The other concern that often arises is the Thanksgiving visit home, for those students who are able to do so. Coming a month later than the fall break, some first-years are now surprisingly anxious about returning home after the three months of relative freedom. They may have changed since the last time you saw them: more confidence, new expressions, an irritating need to challenge your perspectives. Remember that they will appreciate your support, rather than criticism, through this transformational period. Recognize that while they may be going through many changes, in the long run, your student will most likely maintain the core values that you instilled in them.
Students may also be planning to visit a friend’s family for the Thanksgiving holiday. If they are remaining on campus, you might remind them that there are a number of other students who will be here as well, and that the residential colleges offer a place for them to be together with friends.
What your student may experience:
- Stress levels may remain high as some midterms continue, and many papers and projects are also due. Procrastinators face the consequences of falling behind in coursework.
- They might 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. Sleepless nights may also begin to have a deleterious 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 them to resources such as University Health Services if they are sick, or Counseling and Psychological Services for counseling, if you think they’re 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 their concerns when they contact you, but don’t worry if they don’t call/text as often as you would like. They may be too wrapped up in school to remember to contact home.
- Be supportive of their academic progress without focusing on grades. Ask open-ended questions about what they’re learning, or why certain topics interest them, instead of asking about grades on tests or papers. They’re worried enough about it themselves.
- On the other hand, if they really seem to be drowning in schoolwork, send them immediately to their residential college assistant dean.
- Be prepared for some changes in behavior and attitudes if they return for Thanksgiving—and embrace the chance to witness the growth.