Benefits of parental communication


By Matt Silich

The tradition of obsessive fans fawning over Hollywood stars at award shows has never been my cup of tea, but one man’s Oscar acceptance speech has stuck with me since the Academy Awards aired last Sunday.

Actor J.K. Simmons, who earned the Best Supporting Actor award for his work in “Whiplash”, began his speech by thanking his wife and kids. Later, he stressed the importance of frequent communication with one’s family.

“If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call ‘em,” Simmons said. “Tell them you love them, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”

As a college student living away from home, Simmons’ words struck a chord with me. It is nearly impossible to quantify the effect that my family, specifically my parents, has had on me throughout every phase of life.

My parents instilled in me many of my primary interests and personality traits. I still root for almost all of the same sports teams as my dad. I have almost half as much patience as my mom, which is no small achievement.

It should be acknowledged that many students don’t come from two-parent families. Still, it’s likely that most students have at least one person to turn to for advice outside of campus.

I would guess that many other college students could find traits of their parents or guardians embedded within their own personalities.

Unfortunately, many students seem to drift further away from their parents and family during college.

College is often the first time that students are living away from home. Some students attend sleep-away summer camps in their youth, but one month in a very controlled environment doesn’t hold a candle to the independence of college life.

Arriving at the University opens up a plethora of potential new experiences, many of which require significant time commitments such as pledging a fraternity or sorority.

It’s not difficult to communicate over long distances in today’s society, but the busy life of a college student often prevents the constant discussion between parents and children that takes place from elementary school to high school.

One common way in which families communicate throughout primary and secondary education is at the dinner table. A study done in 2009 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that teens who had three or fewer family dinners each week were one and a half times more likely to have an average grade of a C or lower.

This connects well to the importance of staying in contact with one’s trusted family members. Prior to college, many students could benefit academically from talking through their challenges over dinner with family.

For some students, family moves into the background at college, leaving them without the frequent advice that may have helped in the past.

Maintaining a strong relationship with off-campus family members isn’t necessarily easy, though. Whether due to busy college schedules or the adjustment to independent living, it seems that some students drift further away from communicating with their parents.

I call my parents about once a week, and I often feel more relaxed during that phone call than at any other time of the week. Once a week is enough for me to feel at ease, but there are many other easy ways to keep parents updated more frequently.

A five-minute phone call or FaceTime conversation between classes is an easy way to check in. Texting, though discouraged by Simmons in his speech for its lack of personal interaction, can still be useful when there isn’t enough time to have a full-fledged speaking conversation.

There are also weekends each semester when parents are encouraged to visit campus. Dad’s Weekend already took place in the fall, but Mom’s Weekend is April 10 through 12 this semester.

These weekends provide great opportunities to show one’s parents, or whoever wants to visit, what life is like on campus. Interactions like these could help parents and friends better empathize with students during conversations about college.

College is a period of rapid change and growth for students, both socially and professionally. Having a confidant to interact with on a consistent basis will help students better manage their emotions during a challenging time.

Making a concerted effort to stay in better contact with loved ones is a simple, yet significant change to help relieve some of the pressure students feel at college.

Matt is a sophomore in DGS.

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