The Tip List - 10 Tips for Parents
Tip 1- Anticipate an emotional roller coaster- for your student- and – for you!
• Ambivalence- you have mixed feelings, you are proud and pleased for your student and you may well have waves of nostalgia and a sense of loss. Congratulations, you are a successful parent ! It shows- as your student is willing to make the commitment to invest their lives in higher education and developing the maturation of an adult. This mixed experience is perfectly natural and desirable. Just remember feelings are not the basis for decisions. Keep an eye on those worrisome concerns about your student and look as objectively as possible about what is really happening. Call us- we are here to help parents too.
• Avoid the comment, “these are the best years of your life.” In retrospect to you, they may well be. But life has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years in general and certainly also on campus. Your student may have concerns that are very realistic given political, social and employment circumstances. Recognize that college life is very different and tell them this. This attitude shows your student that you truly understand and support them. And here you assume the role of major coach in their lives. Instead of the pressure that goes with expecting them to be happy at all times, underscore what is truly happening, that is, they have an opportunity to learn, explore, grow as people and to become strong and ethical leaders. This is our mission at St Thomas University.
Tip # 2- Communication and Support —with a new twist!
• Keep it open but re-vamp it. You are no longer the problem solver for your student. Listen, but encourage your student always to use University resources as soon as possible.
• Anchoring, care packages, e-mails, and snail mail. Send as many little tokens as possible that allow your student to know that they are loved, that things are OK and the news of home. Although they make act as though everything is “great” “fine” a care packet means the world, favorite food photos, music, gift cards, and so on, ( especially during mid-terms and finals !)
• Do your best not to impose your own feelings of loss upon them. This has to be handled away from your student. They themselves have very big developmental tasks; they must do their jobs as students, with little direct supervision from faculty and also, become responsible adults. Keep them in the family loop and help them be secure that you love them and allis well.
• Coaching v. supervising your student
• Minimize specific questions- maximize open ended questions to allow the most communication.
• College students care about what their parents think, even if they act as though they don’t. Sometimes they want advice and sometimes they don’t. Here you really have to assume the wise coach position, because they rarely will tell you in advance- ask them, “..do you want my opinion or just a listening ear? “ Do your best to follow up with their request. It is perfectly fine to add – on- “but if you want my opinion at any time, let me know …” Don’t hold your breath though!
Don’t forget to talk about expectations and set the structure/ rules now. Important areas are:
Tip # 3- Keep in mind that your student is in a very big state of change.
• Their grades will often be lower than their high school averages in the first term.
• Be aware and suggest that they get guidance from resources people on campus.
• Many are very unclear what they wish to study as a major field. Again, support them in receiving advisement.
• Ask them to think over what they want from college and to ask questions from responsible parties on campus.
• Remind them they must take ownership of their college education.
• As to finances, it is critical that clear structure be set out to minimize anxiety, for you and your student. Go over use of bank accounts, credit cards and expenses. Have emergency systems set up.
• When it comes to morals, your job again becomes one of a sophisticated coach. Gently and sometimes with more vigor, remind them what they already know, using actual examples from their own lives, or lives of people for whom they care.
• Don’t expect that they will be thrilled or necessarily grateful to have your thoughts in the moment but give your student a little time to adjust, think over and integrate. At this point they have to “spread their wings and fly…” a little at least.
Tip # 4- Expect change, but not necessarily your desired change- right away.
• College is a time of experimentation
• Personal and social maturation takes some time.
• Your student is still the same person, but perhaps with some new stylistic changes.
• This is clearly a time for experimentation and self exploration. It is completely normal and necessary. From a developmental point of view, individuals in the college age are constantly changing.
• Emotions run intensely and they are very susceptible to dramatic opinions and ideas. However, the law of cause and effect usually tempers the most carefree daredevil.
• Don’t be alarmed by the trend to experiment. Your student may come home with an entirely “new look”, new politics, someone else’s clothes and another person’s philosophy. Certainly keep your eyes open for dangerous patterns, but also realize that these experimentations are rarely permanent. Take a step back, take a breather, have a good sense of humor, wait a bit and pick your battles! ( We urge you to discuss immediately with you student or a representative of the university if you see patterns of persistent mood disorder, eating changes that are pronounced, problematic alcohol or drug use is suspected, signs of domestic/ date violence and other health symptoms that are not improving).
• Keep communication open if you have any concerns in this regard- contact us, better safe than sorry.
• At St. Thomas University, we offer an appropriate developmental balance for your student.
• We provide the anchor to allow some exploration and we place a strong structure of moral conscience in place in University life, with Residence Hall rules, for example, curfew, personal care, guidelines for appropriate behavior, university support services and academic guidelines.
• Your student will need to be persistent and disciplined to complete their education. This requires maturational development. And maturation takes time.
• Part of college life is the development of personal discipline and responsibility. At times your student will face consequences that are difficult. These natural consequences will help them change and grow in maturity. So the desired changes take some time!
Tip # 5 -Success is knowing where to get support and help
• St. Thomas University is your student’s home away form home
• We work from a Catholic university identity which means we are dedicated to supporting the dignity and worth of every individual and to fostering leaders who will ethically improve our world. At St. Thomas, we have the ability to personally respond to the needs of your student. In Health and Wellness our motto comes from the Catholic principle of university life as a responsible and care- giving community, heart speaking to heart. ( St. John Henry Cardinal Newman)
• Learn the resources of St. Thomas University. Feel free to call on us with questions or to ask for help. Be a fan of Student Affairs services and encourage your student to seek help from the university faculty and staff. Our services are designed to help students and their families.
Tip # 6- Be the “point of balance” for your student—and for yourself!
• As the anchor, you are the stable family force in their lives.
• At the same time you must keep the big picture for yourself.
• You have the job to set the pace for your student from the family- home situation. Help them understand that they have reached a new benchmark in their lives. They are no longer children. Recognize this. Inform them when you plan to visit campus, tell them in advance what family activities you would like them to attend. Be respectful of their study and personal schedules.
• Be mindful of the many stressors of the new college life of your student.
• Don’t initiate comments about homesickness. Although they may very well feel unsettled and out of place, there are many activities available for them, sponsored by the University with their safety and sound development in mind.
• We hope that they will be assertive in attending many of these events and activities so that they begin to make the bridge to successful and wholesome college life.
• Don’t become overly worried about your student placing the “I am down in the dumps” calls to you. Remember that often they will turn to home when they have a problem with a class, a grade or a roommate, but they may never tell you about all their successes. Be patient and listen. If you have real fears or concerns, then, of course, better safe then sorry, encourage them to seek help for the problem here at St. Thomas University. If your student appears to have a persistent or recurring problem and they are not inclined to get help, call us and let us know your concerns. While confidentiality restrictions may apply we can always listen to your concerns and we will certainly do whatever possible to open all necessary lines of communication. We are here to help you —and your student.
Tip # 7- Trust them…. and yourself.
• Trust or the faith to rely upon another person to be good, fair and reliable is the key value for you and your student as they begin college life.
• You have a very big job at the moment. This is to trust your student, all you have taught and wait with some patience to see their choices and development.
• Both parents and students are commonly second guessing each other. Do your best to avoid this. Worrying is completely unproductive. (“Why do you worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself…)
• Give a calm, strong and balanced view and wait to see what you observe in your student. Ask your university support staff for help at any time.
• Trust is always re-earned at critical points in development and college is one of the biggest developmental tasks in the life of an adult.
Tip # 8- Create new memories and experiences.
• As you know from your own life, there are times when we make significant changes.
• These changes influence us forever afterwards.
• Although we are always the same person, we are also different. Of course this is especially true for people entering college.
• It is a great idea to set up special events with you student, during visits and on vacations that are a bit different than what you normally do together. That is not to say you should erase the cherished Sunday evening dinner- rituals and routines of family life are forever a blessing, but you can also add in activities you had not done before and try to link them with the evolving interests of your student. For example, if she is a business major, ask her to join you for a conference or a lecture required by your work. Ask your student if they would like to take a memento back to their dorm from someone in the family, just to help them feel love and closeness.
• Take a step back and marvel at your student, the person they have been as a child and teen and the person they are becoming as a young adult. Just sit back and enjoy this experience. It will help your student feel the trust and confidence you have for them.
Tip # 9 -Take comfort
• Feel the satisfaction and comfort that part of you goes forward into the world with your student.
• Relax as much as possible, knowing that the love of a parent is truly powerful.
• Trust that you have placed your student in an institution of higher education in which values and ethics are at the forefront!
Tip # 10- As you allow them to fly from the nest, also keep it warm and inviting.
• Never fear.
• They will return.
• They are not gone forever !
• Be at peace- you have done your job to bring them to this point of learning and maturation- well done !
Congratulations on this wonderful step in your life as a parent - do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of help.