You’re happy that your college kid is home for Winter or Summer Break, but not so happy about their grades. How should you handle this? It’s easy to let disappointment be your first reaction, but it’s important to understand your kid’s side of the story. Only then can you diagnose the problem to better prepare for the future.
Don’t Get Mad
When has anger ever solved a problem thoroughly and efficiently? Getting mad will not solve this problem. In fact, it can worsen the problem by discouraging your college kid. Being disappointed is understandable, but stay away from anger. That means don’t berate and don’t judge. Whatever you do, DO NOT compare your college kid to a sibling, friend, or even your college self.
Personal attacks like this can be toxic to college students and affect their self-esteem during future semesters. Better ways to deal with those bad grades are listed below!
Discuss What Went Wrong
Having an honest talk with your college kid is the easiest way to get to the root of the problem. So as to not seem like a detective in the interrogation room, make it clear that you want to help out. Punishment such as no Spring Break trips until grades improve may be a part of your parenting style, but it’s important to keep in mind that your college “kid” is now an adult. It is important to communicate that you are on their side no matter what.
Start your discussion naturally, and don’t jump into grade questions straight away. Talk to them about the good things that happened to them during their college semester. What was the best memory they made? Who was their favorite professor?
Talking about your own college experiences can help build the conversation as well. From there, you can transition to the hard-hitting questions. Talk to them about what they struggled with the most during the semester. Was it the size of the workload? Was the material difficult to understand? Did personal troubles with roommates, friends, or social life get in the way?
During your discussion, listen with a discerning, sympathetic ear to figure out the problem.
Plan for Next Semester
Transitioning to college can be tough for recent high school graduates. If the classes are too challenging, discuss the possibility of hiring a tutor. There are numerous resources out there to help your college student succeed, such as this fygböx blog post on the surefire way to getting good grades.
If it’s a workload problem, try talking about cutting down the number of classes to take or creating an effective schedule. Maybe it's time to re-evaluate the goals that your college student wants to accomplish. Personal problems are harder to fix, but relating to your college kid’s problems can help immensely.
Try to talk about your own stories of how you struggled through a problem and what you did to get through it. Who better to serve as inspiration and motivation for next semester than an awesome parent?!
Offer Words of Encouragement
After a tough semester, your kid needs positivity now more than anything else! Point out their best qualities and show them how they can use it to their advantage next semester.
Be honest with your college kid, and let them know what they do that makes you proud. According to Psychology Today, positive reinforcement works more than negative reinforcement. If words alone won’t work, incentivize them to improve their grades with a tangible reward, such as a vacation or that new smartphone they’ve been eyeing.
If College Is Not Right for Them
Although getting a college degree is now equivalent to getting a high school diploma (so it seems), college is not the right path for everyone. After talking with your college kid, and you both deem that this is truly the case, talk about what other options there are besides college.
Maybe a gap year or semester off would be suitable for your college kid to figure out what it is they want to do in life. It is important that they still do something productive and meaningful during any gap. This could mean travelling, volunteering, or working a full-time job. Trade schools and certification programs are also options to consider. Community college is a viable route to take if a traditional four-year college is not the right environment for them.
Overall, it is your job as a parent to keep an open mind and understand that grades do not determine a person’s worth. College is easier for some students and not so much for others. Rather than using punishment to get the results you want, look towards positivity and objectivity. Doing this will surely help your college kid conquer this rough patch!