Parents are key partners in the success of our residents as they transition into independence and adult living. It’s not always an easy change to deal with, for both the students and the parents alike. Fortunately, we have done this a few times and have some tips to help.
Dropping your college student off can be both exciting and difficult for the whole family. The first few months can be challenging as students move into adulthood, and parents begin to transition from the role of “director” into the role of “listener”. Here are some strategies you may find helpful.
- Ask open-ended questions. Remember the goal is to keep communication open, not to close it. Try not to sound as if you are preaching. When you are trying to make a point, use the words “I would rather that you…”
- Be open and honest about your values and expectations on sensitive subjects such as alcohol, drugs, and sex. State your views without coming across as judgmental.
- Remember that listening is part of communicating. Being a good sounding board is an important part of the process.
- Expect to disagree on some key issues. Keep in mind that your student is struggling for independence and autonomy-not co-dependence.
- Take some extra time to communicate your support and encouragement. Positive feedback is especially important for your child at this time.
- Even if your child has made some poor decisions, try not to place blame directly on them. Using “I” statements rather than “you” statements allows you to express how you feel without sounding accusatory.
- Discuss the connections between alcohol, drugs, and sexual assault. Emphasize that in order to make good judgments, a person needs to be in control. If your child goes to a party with friends, encourage them to leave with those same friends. Suggest that transportation arrangements be planned in advance.
- Stress to your student that alcohol is toxic and excessive consumption can fatally poison. This is not a scare tactic. The fact is that students die every year from alcohol poisoning. Discourage dangerous binge drinking and participation in drinking games. Parents should ask their students to also have the courage to intervene when they see someone putting their life at risk through participation in dangerous drinking.
- Ask questions about how your child is spending free time and with whom they are spending it. The way your child spends time can give clues as to whether they are engaging in risky activities.
- Know that we take our policies seriously, and we follow local, state, and federal laws in regards to alcohol and drugs. Repeat violations can have serious consequences, including the loss of on-campus housing. Support your student in making good decisions which will not jeopardize their stay with us. Our complete policies are listed in our Resident’s Guide to Community Living.
- Don’t overreact to those first frantic telephone calls! Listen carefully and try to determine how best to address your child’s need at the moment. Don’t panic!
- Don’t be surprised if your son or daughter expresses strong emotions one day, and then these feelings disappear the next day. It is not unusual to receive a call that “nothing is going right” or “I want to come home” and then the next day, “all is well”.
- Be aware of your emotions. Feelings of anger and disappointment will come through even on the telephone.
- Encourage your child to work through problems with their roommates as they arise. A series of misunderstandings may erupt into a major confrontation if tensions are allowed to build.
- It is important to remember that students need to fight their own battles. Situations can become more complicated when parents get involved in roommate problems.
- Resist the urge to call on your student’s behalf. We communicate directly with the students, and prefer that students communicate their concerns to us directly as well. It is helpful for us to hear information first hand and help students resolve their own issues.
- Brainstorm options and possible courses of action with your student as problems arise. Generating choices with your child conveys that you care and also puts the responsibility on them to follow-up.
- Remember that it is your student who needs to take responsibility for managing their time. Attempting to organize your child’s time can often complicate matters. However, as a parent, you can provide some helpful tips.
- Choosing a major is a process that takes time. It may be difficult not to step in and choose a major for your child. Encourage your students to explore academic programs, but do not project your own views into the process. Remember that a student’s choice of a major is based on their abilities and interests, not yours.
- Place the responsibility for connecting with resources at the first sign of academic trouble on your student. Students should reach out to campus support services such as Tutorials, Advisers, and Deans.
- Parents should be aware when final grades are available. Information can be found on the MMC website. Keep in mind that MMC honors FERPA law, and therefore you will not receive notification of your child’s grades, judicial records, etc.
- Remember that times change! Be careful about giving advice based on your own college experience. What worked for you some years ago may not be effective for your child.
- When you discuss any changes, remember that your student “owns” the plan. Your role is to share your expectations and provide support, not to assume responsibility for decisions and follow-through. That is up to your college student.
- If this is your second (or third) child going off to college, remember and respect the differences of each of your children as you apply these strategies.
There are a variety of helpful books available to assist you with the transition, as well as your student’s, as they begin their college life.
- The Parents’ Survival Guide to Freshman Year of College (Borden, Burlinson and Kearns)
- Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years (Coburn & Treeger)
- When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parents’ Survival Guide (Barkin)
- Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years (Johnson & Schelhas-Miller)
- You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years (Savage)