|Here are a
few more thoughts for parents who have cadets wanting to leave:
Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We've been there on the roller coaster and the drops are no fun. At our very first Parents' club meeting the father of a recent graduate reminded all the plebe parents that the mission of West Point is to produce career Army officers, and it's NOT a failure for a cadet to decide it's not what they want to do. Sometimes our pride as parents gets mixed up with the West Point experience and we're afraid it will reflect on us if they leave. I urge you to guard against that temptation. Just being there in the first place makes your cadet a success. He or she will do well whatever they decide.
Mike Havey gave practical advice more eloquently than I can, but I second his advice. Our cadet had a tough time deciding if West Point was for him both his plebe and yearling year. Throughout we told him that the decision was his and his alone - BUT, while leaving was acceptable, quitting was NOT. There are appropriate times to make a rational decision to leave West Point including the end of semesters or the end of the year. We constantly challenged him not to quit in the middle of the term. At times we reminded him that there was no where for him to go in the middle of a semester except to come home and get a job flipping burgers. At the end of a semester or the year he could transfer to another school and move forward, but in the middle of a semester all he could do was mark time until he got into another college. For our cadet it worked. He decided to stay and seems very content and successful in his Cow year.
For our last newsletter, I had asked the uppreclass cadets about the time during and after Christmas, Below is the question that was posed to them and their responses, perhaps some of this will help. (please note the cadet's who responded were not named in the original article, nor will they be identified here)
To see the actual newsletter for our parents club go to: http://www.west-point.org/parent/wppc-nc
Traditionally, one of the very emotional departures for the plebe cadets is the one after the Christmas holidays. They will spend their longest time to date with family and friends, they will have the opportunity to rekindle their friendships with peers who are attending the traditional public or private universities, and subsequently they may have doubts about the decisions they have made thus far.
Upperclass cadets were asked what advice or comments they could share with our plebe parents on how to make this holiday a less difficult time. Due to the nature of this question, I will not quote my sources, but only indicate class year.
A cow's memories:
Dear Parents and Plebes,
Parents, as far as ways to make it easier to say goodbye after the Christmas break, well sorry there is no real effective method. You might have just seen them for PPW and been with them for a few weeks, but their isolation from you is about to return. It is going to be a bit easier for you all these days because we all have phones, but phone conversations usually don't cut it. Just spoil your sons and daughters as much as you can when they get home and understand that they just finished some of the hardest times they have ever experienced. After TEE's [editor's note: Term End Exams] some people have been known to not be able to speak correctly because their verbal language skills have been pushed in the back of their minds to store more data for a test. So if your son or daughter does not seem like their old chipper self, well it is because they are tired and need to "veg" for a while or whatever it is that they do to relax.
Hope some of these comments help all of you out. This might help prevent conflict between all of you. My parents were unhappy with me when I got back as a plebe and was not bursting with elation. It took a little while to explain my situation to them.
Good luck to all, and have fun with this, it is all what you make of it, and set your priorities, sometimes academics is not the most important thing, your sanity and personal growth is.
A yearling advises:
While it is true that many people do rekindle friendships when they go home, not all have a hard time leaving. Some cadets start to actually get bored being home for such along time and wish to go back, simply because now they are better adjusted for academy life. One thing that parents can do is get their cadet some reason to be interested in getting back to the academy is giving their cadet a new toy which will augment their computer. Especially right after Christmas where according to this years policy is the first time they can have speakers on their computers or stereos in their rooms. It also helps for the plebes to know that generally Military intercession is a lot more fun than the academic year, very little is truly accomplished and there is a lot of extra time not usually had at the academy to get to know your classmates better and do things around the point.
A firstie responds:
My thoughts on the issue amount to the following advice:
Another cow responded:
As far as this plebe situation goes over christmas break, you either want to be an army officer or you don't. Don't pressure them in any way. Let them relax and get rest, because every cadet here is extremely tired from the long semester. I am a cow and my parents still don't understand the rigorous schedule that we as cadets face. If they want to quit, talk to them and find out if they really want to be in the army. I hate to say it, but this is a profession and you have to like what you do. I don't encourage any plebe to quit during christmas. I encourage them to want until the summer for buckner training. That is were they will get a full taste of whether they will like their future profession.
I understand perfectly well what you are going through as parents. My son is a cow now and seriously considered quitting his plebe year. I was a basket case only because he had wanted West Point for so long, fought academically and every way to get there, and now wanted to leave. There were a couple of mild hazing incidents that took him downward. I could only listen and wait it out. However, I needed my own clarity of thought. Was I wanting him to stay for my sake? Was he really miserable? Was this a temporary condition? I had a lot of anxiety myself. So did my husband who saw things differently.
I sought counsel. First, I broke a "rule" or two. In confidence, I discussed the issue with my son's TAC. I know, it's supposed to be a no-no, but, honestly, he was amazingly supportive and without bias discussed how to best handle my feelings as well as how the official line at West Point would handle it. He assured me that my son would receive the counseling he needed to sort out the issues. He spoke as a father and as a military officer. He gave me positive feedback and at least some sense of direction. I can't answer for all TAC's or parents. But I'm glad I broke that rule.
Secondly, when my son called, I allowed him to talk out his feelings; sometimes what he told me was only part of the story. He wouldn't tell me all the pressure he was under. I also reminded him of all the qualities he possessed that got him into West Point in the first place. "You deserve to be there," but I also told him that only he could make the ultimate decision. I urged him to speak to the various counselors FIRST. We did pressure him to do that so that both of us could accept that he had explored all the avenues before making a final decision. We also insisted that he have an alternate college plan and funding (he would have to borrow).
Once he saw that the alternatives were not very appetizing either, he began to commit to a week or two. . .and then that stretched into the first semester.
He had wonderfully supportive Yuk, squad and company leader who counseled him prviately. Ultimately, however, he did speak to the TAC (the one I had spoken to privately). Bless that TAC, too, because he spent considerable time discussing issues with my son, but allowing him the dignity of charting his own course.
Those days seem a long time ago, but the process was important for my son. The other advice from older cadets is still wise: Wait until you have completed one year so that your credits can transfer; to leave prior to the one year means starting over, literally. All the work/gains thus far will have evaporated. After the year, your head is still up and you've charted your own course without having given him.
All I spoke to at that critical time understood that all cadets are meant for West Point, but it's the a way you leave that makes the difference.
My son has been nominated/elected Soldier of the Quarter more than once or twice. He has found his niche and is able to laugh about his early anxiety that plebe year.
1. The first obvious answer is to suggest that no decision be made right now. The Plebe has survived the hardest part of WP and is already into a second semester and will soon be recognized so it makes sense to at least taste post recognition life at WP.
2. There are few Cadets that have not contemplated quitting at one time or another.
3. Wait until the end of the semester.
There was a particularly rough time that our cadet was going through and I called every friend and relative that we knew had a relationship with our cadet and asked them to send a card or letter letting them know how much they were cared for and thought about.You don't need to let on any more than the cadet needs some uplifting and love.Our cadet was amazed that all these people were thinking of them and it did help.Our cadet felt that they were not as alone as they had thought.Hope that this helps.
Every situation and cadet is different so what might be of help to one may not be appropriate for another. Luckily, our son did not go through the same thing, although I know other cadets that did. My advice to them was to at least get through recognition, after which they are treated with more respect. Our son felt like a huge burden was lifted after that time. If your son decides after that time that he still wants to leave, at least he will have completed an entire year of college, at no cost, and most if not all of the credits are transferable. Sadly, some cadets REALLY do not want to be there are are forced to stick it out -- those are the cadets that take extreme measures to not go back - so don't push too much.
My advice is to listen to your cadet. Ask him to write on a piece of paper all the positive things (pros) about West Point and all the negative things (cons). Tell him to write as many things as he can, both big and small. Go through the list with him, without judgment on your part. Capitalize on and reinforce the pros, and then discuss each of the cons. Are some of the cons going to improve (with recognition, with maturity, with more experience)? Can he actively improve some of the cons or make them go away? How important or relevant are the cons? Then perhaps prioritize the list. Hopefully you then will have a narrowed down list with some items he cannot not change and must accept (and if he cannot, maybe it is better that he leave) and he should have a list of cons that really are not big deals and some he can make go away.
Again, you can only help him verbalize what he is thinking, help him put everything in perspective, and help him balance the good and bad. The desire to stay at West Point must come from him. You can only make sure that he thinks it all the way through, evaluates each item that bothers him and what he likes about West Point, so that he does not later regret any decision he makes.
"Never, ever make a big decision when you are down physically, mentally, or emotionally. Wait at least until you feel good, and then make the decision. It will be more likely then to be the right choice." Hope this helps and whatever the decision, just let him know you will support and love him and good luck to you all.