Tips for Parents
Sending your student to college can be challenging for both of you. The following are few tips that may be helpful for adjusting to college life as a parent.
1. Communicate and listen. This advice is as important for parents of students who live at home as it is for parents of students who live on campus. It is always important to keep the lines of communication open, even during periods when your son or daughter is not being particularly responsive. On the other hand, don't worry too much about manic-depressive phone calls or letters. Often, unfortunately, the only time you'll hear from your son or daughter is when it all becomes too much to handle. You may never get to hear about the triumphs. Be patient with these "nothing is going right" contacts. They may be difficult for you, but providing a sympathetic ear works wonders for a frustrated student.
2. Be supportive without being intrusive. Your student is feeling independent. You may not get as much day-to-day information as you have before. Don't let it get you down. Continue to show interest in what he or she is doing but avoid pressing for information if your child is reluctant to talk. If your relationship has been good in the past, you have a good basis for trust now. And one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to let your child know that you trust his or her judgment.
Expect your son or daughter to make some mistakes. No one grows up without them.
3. Encourage your son or daughter to get involved on the campus. This is one of the most important things you can do to help insure your student's success. Studies show that the first six weeks are critical in determining whether or not a freshman will drop out. Getting involved with campus activities and getting to know other students, faculty, and staff give students a sense of belonging. A student who feels like part of the school is more likely to stay and to succeed. Most schools will have numerous clubs and activities that are sure to peak your son or daughters interest.
4. Don't pressure for decisions about declaring a major or choosing a career. Some students know from the beginning what they want to do with their lives and never question the direction they are moving in; other students begin by being uncertain and find that they want to change their program every time they take a new class that interests them. Most students fall somewhere in the middle. Taking some time to explore new options is a very important part of the college experience. We urge students to keep as many doors open as possible.
Naturally, parents who pay tuition don't want their kids to waste time. But to get the most out of your investment, your son or daughter should be open to new educational possibilities. Students can complete most programs in two years even if they don't decide before the end of their first year.
5. Be prepared for anything! If you were puzzled by your son or daughter in high school, he or she will certainly confuse you now. Students are being exposed to new ideas and new people, and are struggling to establish their identities during first year. They may express themselves in a variety of bewildering ways. They may come home at Thanksgiving (or any other time) with purple hair or newly pierced body parts or call to tell you they've taken up paragliding or eastern meditation. Remember tips number 1 and 2. Try to have an open mind. Expect the unexpected and you won't be disappointed.
6. Encourage your student to handle minor problems. Make suggestions, give advice if requested, but encourage your child to try to handle things on his or her own. If, however, you notice major changes in your son or daughter such as depression, significant weight loss, frequent illness or fatigue, or other behaviors that concern you, make sure you contact the school to find out a little bit more about the problem(s).
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