The Family Transition
The experience of sending a student off to college can be daunting. While it is certainly an exciting and joyous occasion, it can also be filled with anxiety and trepidation. That is why it is important for parents and family members to focus on their own transition as much as their students. With that in mind, here are some tips, hints, and suggestions to help parents and family members as they make their way through their own college transition.
- Realize That at Some Point Your Student is Going to Struggle
Parents and family members often fantasize about how well their student is going to do at college. They believe that by focusing on their studies and working hard, their student will easily overcome any obstacle they face. This could not be further from the truth.
At some point, every student struggles. Whether it be academically, emotionally, socially, or psychologically, at some point every student becomes overwhelmed to the point that getting through the day-to-day of life seems a difficult task. It is important for parents and family members to realize this. It is even more important that they share this information with their students. Students often try to keep their struggles away from their family for fear that the family will be disappointed in them. You need to make them understand that every student experiences these difficulties and you will not be disappointed in them. Rather, you will be there to support them and assist them through whatever struggle there are facing.
- Create a Schedule to Communicate
Most parents of the current generation of college students, known as Millennials, have been extremely close with and heavily involved in the lives of their children. Daily, face-to-face interaction is very much a part of the way of life not just for students, but for their parents and family members as well. Losing that type of instant-access communication can be a bit of a shock to the system. Many parents and family members assume that with technology being what it is today (smartphones, video chats) they can immediately get in contact with their students when they so desire. However, that is not always the case and when family members are unable to get in contact with their students a sense of panic can result.
With this in mind, speak with your student before they arrive on campus in order to set up a regular schedule of how and when you will get in contact with one another. Together, determine not only the method but also how often you will check in with each other. Will you contact one another once a week, once a month, every other day? By creating a set schedule you can avoid the anxiety that might come when you are unable to get in touch with your student.
- Plan Visits Ahead of Time
For many parents and family members, especially those that are sending a student to college for the first time, the idea of driving down to campus one weekend and surprising your student sounds enticing. More than likely you saw it on television or a movie. However, this can be a major inconvenience to your student. Your student is creating a life on campus that may not involve you. They may have a group project that is due and they have set aside the weekend to meet with their group members. They may have a major exam coming up and need the time to study. Or they just might have other plans and your arrival would be a major bother. Speak with your student ahead of time and make sure a visit from you works with their schedule.
- Be Okay Not Knowing Everything About Your Student
As mentioned earlier, your student is creating a life on campus that does not include you. As such, it should not come as a surprise if your student does not share everything with you about their new life. Be okay with this. Your student is not trying to hide any deep, dark secrets from you. They are merely creating new boundaries in an effort to expand their privacy. As students become more independent this is a natural part of that process. If your student chooses not to share something with you, resist the temptation to pry and pressure them for the information. It will only result in your student choosing to keep even more from you.
- Allow Your Student to Fail and Make Mistakes
This is an especially alien concept to parents and family members who have spent their entire lives ensuring that their student knows nothing but success. While that is certainly a natural desire, adversity can be just as beneficial as achievement. Allow your student to occasionally fail and make mistakes. Failure can be a wonderful teaching tool for students. Think back to when you were your student’s age and remember some of the decisions and/or choices you made that may not have been the best. Yet, at the time you were able to learn something from it. So give your student the opportunity to have those same learning experiences by allowing them to make the occasional mistake.
- Understand That Your Student is Going to Change
Your student is attending a global campus. They are going to be exposed to people, cultures, ideas, beliefs, and philosophies they have never before known about. As they learn more about these differences, they are going to ask questions. And much of what they question will be their own upbringing. This means they will question much, if not all, that you have taught them in regards to morals, ethics, beliefs, what’s right and what’s wrong.
Please do not view this as a grand conspiracy by the university to brainwash your child. Rather, it is a natural part of the developmental process that every student goes through. College is not just where a student learns a profession or trade. It is also where a student learns what kind of person they want to be and they will believe in and stand up for. This can sometimes lead to some awkward and uncomfortable conversations when students come home to visit. Understand that this process is how a student comes into their own. And remember that no matter what, they are still your student, and they will always need the love and support that only you as a parent and family member can provide.
These are just a few tips that can help parents as they prepare to send their students off to college. If you have additional questions on how you can manage your own transition, feel free to contact the Parent and Family Programs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (217) 333-7063.