As a parent, your responsibilities are to your student and to yourself. For yourself, recognize that you will experience your own transition issues as your son or daughter develops their independence at college. You may want to develop support networks with other parents who are experiencing these issues. Consider "what is next?" Think of how you will redefine your relationship with your child now, as a young adult. Remember, too, that everything you will go through is normal; learn to expect the unexpected and that there are no right or wrong decisions, only new experiences.
To help yourself and your student through this early stage, and beyond, practice the following thoughts and behaviors:
- Remember to be continually loving, supportive, and caring
- Steer clear of major controversial discussions
- Avoid being too enthusiastic or too critical
- Be selective in carefully choosing reminders of "what to do"
- Affirm confidence in your student's potential
- Listen, listen, listen
- Send packages often
- Keep your sense of humor
- Don't let it worry you that the same person planning his/her life can't seem to do his/her laundry (Expect inconsistencies in their development)
- Praise accomplishments often
- Consistently communicate with your student (Email is a great vehicle!)
- Remember H-O-W (Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness) to talk to your student
- Always forward student mail without reading it
- Don't compare your student to siblings, friends, or others
- Carefully consider whether to visit campus unannounced
- Accept the choice of major; it rarely determines a career
- Keep in mind that time management challenges most students
- Take comfort in knowing that formation of identity, independence, and intimacy are as much a part of college as algebra and literature
- Nurture spirit -- it supports persistence
- College is expensive -- work cooperatively on reasonable budgets
- Most importantly: Always trust your student
Hatch, Cathie and Richard H. Mullendore. Helping Your First-Year College Student Succeed: A Guide for Parents. National Orientation Directors Association, 2000.