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New Advice for Thanksgiving Break

By Diana Barrett, Brittany House Conrad, Kristen Altenau Keen and Christina Smith

Students often go through a transformation in their first few months away at college. In 1992, a news release from UD titled “There's a Stranger in the House! Yes, It's Your College Freshman” offered expert advice for families as they prepared for their first-year students to return home for Thanksgiving. “The season lends itself to complications,” the expert said. That hasn’t changed — but the available resources have. Staff in student development share some new tips for 2021.

After a few months on campus, students have likely changed a lot. Parents might find themselves with thoughts such as these:

  • “We spent day in and day out together during the pandemic, and now we don’t even seem to speak the same language. What in the world are YikYak and PATH points?”
  • “I was so looking forward to the time spent with my student, but it seems like they’re more interested in seeing their high school friends.”
  • “My student has never had a curfew past midnight, but now it seems like they don’t want to follow any rules.”

PARENTS: Be ready to listen

Your student might have had a great semester, but there are things — big and small — that they might need to talk to you about. Some students might be hesitant to share issues, or they might be seeking acceptance and approval from you as they are exploring their adult identity. Consider how you balance the roles of listening and advice-giving — or whether or not you take action on their behalf.

Guide them to resources

Some students may express that it’s been difficult to find friends or get connected on campus. Others may share that this adjustment has impacted their mental health. Perhaps they are exploring their identities in a new way. On top of all this, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the transition to living in community more stressful than before.  created living in community or adjusting to learning in person. Let your students know you are there to listen and support them. Empowering them to use UD’s many on-campus resources (listed below) is a great approach. 

Focus: health, wellness, vocation, goals

College should be challenging — but not overwhelming. If you find that your student is not thriving, encourage them to reach out to a trusted staff person on campus. We are here to help your student be successful. For some, it’s easier to explore resources online. YOU@Dayton is a confidential online resource curated for UD students. This provides resources on mental health, physical well-being, finding vocation (including internships, jobs, etc.) and goal setting. Find more information on the Health and Wellbeing website, and encourage your student to explore their account by visiting

Additional resources

As you explore these thoughts and new conversations with your student, we encourage you to be aware of some of the following resources:

Browse news releases

UD’s digitized news releases date from 1955 to the present. Browse them in eCommons or use the search tool to find a specific topic.

— Diana Barrett is the director of student transitions and family programs; Brittany House Conrad is the assistant dean of students for advocacy and intervention; Kristen Altenau Keen is the assistant dean of students and director of the Brook Center; Christina Smith is the director of residence life.

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