Monday, August 22, 2011

Helping Your College Student Transition in Three Weeks....or More

In light of college classes starting back up and the drove of students who are going away for the first time, I have been thinking about the "three week" phenomena. Have you ever heard of it? If you do an internet search, you will find a long list of articles on the subject. I have gleaned a few for those who like to read more in depth. (Look at bottom of this entry for links to these articles)

"Everything we do (and think, for that matter) is governed by impulses firing across synapses, or spaces between certain cells that guide communication in the brain. When any behavior or pattern is repeated enough, the synaptic pathways associated with that pattern get used to being accessed." (Julia Layton, Discovery Fitness & Health)

Read the ENTIRE article here

But does it really work for everyone, or are these just the experiences of a couple of individuals? And is there really magic in the 21 day formula?

Of course not. We are not created equally - at least not biologically, physiologically, emotionally, and so on. We are as unique as our DNA. But there is a basic principle here that I don't want to miss.

CHANGING A HABIT OR OVERCOMING A DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCE (change, transition) in our lives CAN happen. But it will take time and tenacity.

As you may or may not know, my husband and I are campus ministers at a university in North Carolina. Today is the first week of classes, so things are bustling in our neck of the woods as they are everywhere in Academia. Yesterday a friend of mine was trying to encourage the parents of a freshmen who had just moved into her dorm room. The students and the parents are at the point of caving and calling it quits. The separation is killing them and it has only been a couple of days. 

Freshmen (and others) are always at risk of becoming a fatality in the world of "residence" Academia - especially if they are home bodies and have not been away from home very often. Here are my observations about homesickness and giving in to it - directed towards parents.

If you are the parents, here's what you can do:

1. Encourage your child, instilling in them a "can do" attitude. (While you are at it, listen to yourself. You need to "can do" also)

2. Whimper & have your pity party some where else. Really. I have three daughters and have experienced the moving out or moving away with all of them in various degrees. This transition should be about them. Not about us. WHY? When we had our children, we knew (or should have) that they would one day fly the coup. Become independent. Make their place in the world. This is the time for that to begin. Don't make it harder than it is for them. (Your heart will heal, I PROMISE. There is an awesome life with your young adult child even if everything is different) Read my Killer Transitions blog entry.

3. Give your child a practical goal to reach. (and yourself) This is where the three weeks comes in. Though that is an average and not a "set in stone" number, it is a target to shoot for. If at all possible, do not encourage (I won't use the word allow though I want to) them to come home on a weekend for at least three weeks. Give them time to develop a pattern of familiarity with things around her/him.

4. Send care packages and make all the calls you want. But focus the attention to classes, friends, dorm room, campus, activities. Things that are there where she/he is - not at home. Of course, you can have conversations about "home" things, but it shouldn't be the only topic of a phone conversation.

5. Affirm and reaffirm your belief in what she/he is doing. Talk about the goals set. The degree being pursued. Her/His Future. Neither of you need to be living in the past. The past is...well, the past. "Press forward."

6. Again: have your pity party somewhere else. You can affirm your love to your student child without dumping on them. 

What are your thoughts? Anything particular work for you that I did not mention? 

Remember this: With any struggle and need to endure a difficult transition, we MUST form a parallel pattern.....
So, that includes you, parents. Get a life. Get a hobby. Delve into something new. Set a good example in transition to your college child. 

Read 18 great tricks to form a new habit HERE 

Research statistics on such a study HERE 

An interesting countermand of the 21-day theory HERE 

66 days to form a habit? Read HERE