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Advice for Parents

September 22, 2009

Parents often find that a son or daughter’s first year of college is a cause for celebration–as well as a source of anxiety. Celestino Limas, dean of students and chief diversity officer, provides these suggestions to help parents survive and thrive during their student’s first year of college: 

Embrace the transition you will be experiencing. You will see changes in your daily routine, your finances, and your family relationships. It’s normal to be a bit apprehensive. Give yourself license to make this a transition for yourself so that you can be a better support for your student.

Allow your student’s college experience to truly be his or her own. You may feel you have advice to offer on how to pick a major, where to study, or who is the best roommate. But over-sharing your “wisdom” can be off-putting for your student. Keep your advice at the ready, but share it only when your student asks so that he or she can claim the college experience as his or her own.

Stress learning rather than the accumulation of grades. Students may be surprised at how college faculty and staff prioritize knowledge compared to their high school teachers. To reinforce this message, encourage your student to share with you what he or she is learning; it will help ensure your student approaches every interaction on campus as a learning opportunity.

Establish parameters for communication. Rather than relying on communication to occur unscheduled, negotiate a set time to talk over the phone or via video chat as a way to anchor your communication. You can always text and e-mail in between visits, but this will help provide an opportunity to discuss issues rather than simply updating each other.

Do not “catastrophize” academic setbacks. Allow your student room to get acquainted with his or her studies and put one test or course in perspective. Students often turn to their parents for context, and the more you can help them realize that the course in which they earned a B- amounts to only 4 credits of the 128 they will earn, the better they will be able to cope with the academic transition and be successful.

Promote alcohol and drug information at locations that are easy to find on the Web, in print, and on campus. Encourage your student to reach out to residence hall staff, College Outdoors staff, student government representatives, academic faculty and staff, and athletic and club sport coaches.

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