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Tips for Parents
HELPFUL TIPS FOR PARENTS OF COLLEGE STUDENTS
Do not ask if your student is homesick.
The power of association can be a dangerous thing. The first few weeks of school are action-packed; adjusting to new people and new situations takes up a majority of a freshman’s time and concentration. Unless they’re reminded of it, they’ll probably get over the loneliness and homesickness. And even if they don’t tell you during those first few weeks, they do miss you.
Ask Questions (but not too many).
College freshman have a tendency to resent interference with their newfound lifestyle, but they desire the assurance of knowing that parents are still concerned. Honest inquiries and friendly discussions can strengthen the bond you have with your son or daughter.
Expect Change (but not too much).
Your son or daughter will change. It’s natural, inevitable, and can be inspiring. Remember that a freshman will be basically the same person that you sent away to school, aside from interest changes and personality revisions. Don’t expect too much too soon. Maturation is not an instantaneous process.
Most college students change significantly in their first few years at school. The pace of change may be rapid and evidence itself on a first visit home or evolve slowly over an entire college career. Regardless of the form it takes for your son or daughter, it is inevitable. It may be reflected in preferences for clothing, changes in academic major, or assertive new positions taken on political and social issues. Strong preferences on one visit home may be replaced by equally strong, but very different preferences the next visit.
In the life of a college student, these changes are normal. Although it may be taxing at times, showing patience throughout the process may have a surprisingly positive effect on your long-term relationship with him or her. While your student is going through changes at school, it can be difficult for them to accept changes in their home life. You might wait a quarter or two before you turn your son or daughter's bedroom into a walk-in closet or guest room. Before making major changes discuss them with your student during one of their visits home.
Avoid Visiting Unannounced.
Students like to know that you are coming.
Though most first-year students in all areas are eager to experience their newfound independence, they also rely on the security of family ties. There’s nothing more depressing than a week of empty mailboxes. Remind them that you’re still around. (Do not expect a reply to every letter you write).
Do not worry excessively about “down in the dumps” phone calls or e-mails.
Often when trouble becomes too much for a freshman to handle (failing a test, an ended relationship), the only place to turn is home. Often, unfortunately, this is the only time the urge to communicate is felt so strongly, so you never get to hear about the “A” paper or the new significant other. In these crisis times, they may unload trouble or tears of anger, then return to routine, relieved and lightened, while you inherit the worry. Be patient with this type of communication. Granted it’s a service that makes you feel lousy, but it works wonders for a frustrated student.
It is not unusual to receive a late night phone call from a college student in a state of panic. The subject and circumstances may vary widely from the discovery they are struggling doing college level work, to the conclusion that they are disliked by everyone. At these times it is especially important to remember that once they have expressed all their fears and apprehensions, they will feel better. You may not, but they will. Being especially encouraging and supportive at these times will go a long way to help them see that their problem may be more manageable than they thought
Do not tell them these are the best years of their lives.
Freshman year (and the other four as well) can be full of discovery, inspiration, and fun as well as indecision, disappointment, and mistakes. Often, except in retrospect, it’s not the good times that stand out. Parents who perpetuate the “best years” myth are working against their student’s development. Try to accept and understand both the highs and lows of college life.
Care packages go a long way.
All students love to get care packages from the family, especially during midterms and finals.
Think about sending homemade snacks, articles from the hometown newspaper, snapshots of the family, CD’s or cassette tapes, books, stamps and envelopes.
Students are undergoing a challenging period of personal growth at this time. They probably don’t need their parents to second-guess their second-guessing.
Allow them to fly, but leave room in the nest!
They will return home. They are not gone forever.