Top 10 Tips for Parents
Special Tips to Ease the Transition
Your student is about to begin an experience that is both exciting and frightening
period of joy, discovery, and challenges. They will emerge from this period much
different than when they entered and you are traveling it with them. You will
experience happiness and defeat just as they will possibly with as much satisfaction
joy. Some hints may help both you and your student prepare for what lies ahead.
TIP NO. 1: DON'T ASK THEM IF THEY ARE HOMESICK.
The power of association can be dangerous. A student once expressed, "The idea of
homesick didn't even occur to me what with all the new things that were going on until
my mom called one of the first weekends and asked, 'Are you homesick?' Then it hit
The first few weeks of school are filled with new activities. The challenge of adjusting
new situations takes much of a new student's time and concentration, so unless they
reminded of it often (perhaps by a well-meaning parent), they probably will be able
escape the loneliness and frustration of homesickness. At some point later in the
semester, however, when life at the university seems less inviting, they may experience
it. This is a natural part of the adjustment to university life and life away from
comforts of home. Even if they do not tell you during those first few weeks, they
TIP NO. 2: WRITE (EVEN IF THEY DO NOT WRITE BACK).
Although most freshmen are still anxious for family ties and the security those ties
they typically are eager to experience all the away-from-home independence they can
the first weeks. This surge of independence may be misinterpreted by sensitive parents
rejection, but most freshmen (even though 99 percent will not admit it) would give
anything for some news of home and family, however mundane it may seem.
TIP NO. 3: ASK QUESTIONS (BUT NOT TOO MANY).
College freshmen are "cool" (or so they hope) and may have a tendency to resent
interference with their newfound lifestyle, all the while still desiring the security
knowing that someone is interested in them.
Parental curiosity can be overbearing, alienating or relief-giving, depending on how
questions are asked. "I have a right to know" questions should be avoided. However,
genuine inquiries and other "between friends" communication and discussion will do
much to further the parent-freshman relationship.
TIP NO. 4: EXPECT CHANGE (BUT NOT TOO MUCH).
The University and the experiences associated with it can effect changes in social
personal behavior and academic, vocational and other choices. The previous wallflower
may become a campus sweetheart, a pre-med student may discover that biology is not
thing after all, or a high school radical may become a college conservative.
You cannot stop change you may not even understand it but it is within your power
(and your son's or daughter's advantage) to accept it. Remember that your freshman
be basically the same person that you sent away to school, aside from such changes
interests and shifts in personality. By the same token, do not expect too much too
Maturation is not an instantaneous or overnight process and you might well discover
son or daughter's returning home with some of the habits and hang-ups, however
unsophisticated, that you thought he or she would have outgrown. Be patient.
TIP NO. 5: DO NOT WORRY (TOO MUCH) ABOUT DEPRESSING PHONE CALLS OR LETTERS.
Parenting can be a thankless job, especially during the college years. It is a lot
and only a little receiving. Often, when troubles become too much for a freshman to
handle (a flunked test, an ended friendship and a shrunk t-shirt all in one day),
place to turn, write or dial is home. Unfortunately, since these are the times that
to communicate is felt most strongly, you may not hear about the A paper, the new
romance or the changed major.
Be patient with those nothing-is-going-right-I-hate-this-place phone calls or letters.
are providing a real service with your sympathetic ear. Granted, it is a service that
make you feel lousy, but it works wonders for a frustrated student.
TIP NO. 6: VISIT (BUT NOT TOO OFTEN).
Occasional visits by parents (especially when accompanied by shopping sprees, dinners
out, etc.) are another part of first-year events that freshmen are reluctant to admit
but appreciate greatly. Pretended disdain of such visits can be another part of the
year adjustment. Visits give students a chance to introduce some of the most important
people in both of their worlds (home and school) to each other. Additionally, it is
for parents to become familiar (and more understanding of) their son's or daughter's
activities, commitments, and friends.
Spur of the moment "surprises" are usually not appreciated. (Pre-emption of a planned
weekend of studying or other activities can have disastrous results.) Giving some
may even afford you that rare sight of a clean room.
TIP NO. 7: DO NOT TELL THEM THAT "THESE ARE THE BEST YEARS OF YOUR LIFE."
The freshman year (and those that follow) can be full of indecision, insecurities,
disappointments and, most of all, mistakes. They are also full of discovery, inspiration,
good times and great people. Often, however, it is not the good that stands out, except
It takes awhile (and the help of some good friends) for freshmen to realize that previous
perceptions of what the university is all about were inaccurate. It also takes a while
accept that being unhappy, afraid or confused, disliking certain people and making
mistakes (in other words, accepting oneself) are all part of the experience, all part
growing up. It sometimes takes a little longer for parents to accept.
Parents who believe that college students always get good grades, know what they want
to major in, have activity-packed weekends, are surrounded by thousands of close
friends, and lead carefree, worry-free lives are mistaken. So are parents who think
college-educated means mistake-proof. Parents who perpetuate and insist upon the "best
years" stereotype are working against a son's or daughter's already difficult self
Those who understand and accept the highs and lows are providing support
and encouragement when it is needed most.
TIP NO. 8: TRUST THEM.
Finding oneself is difficult enough without feeling that the people whose opinions
respect most are second-guessing you.
One of the most important things a parent can write to a daughter or son might go
something like, "I love you and want all the things that make you happiest. You, not
are the one who is in the best position to know what those things are."
TIP NO. 9: WATER WHAT YOU WANT TO GROW.
If your first questions are always about dates, social activities, or the score of
recent game rather than about books, ideas, classroom discussions, and co-curricular
activities (out-of-class lectures, seminars, concerts, exhibits, intramural activities,
you may be sending the wrong signal about what is really important at the university.
Having a student at UD provides a wonderful opportunity to learn something about a
book and the latest views on a topic of mutual interest. We urge you to ask about
things first so that you find the conversation a rewarding experience and so that
or daughter sees that the demanding work of the university is what matters to you
TIP NO. 10: BE THERE BUT DON'T FIGHT THEIR BATTLES FOR THEM.
Being a good listener and giving tips for dealing with problematic situations is a
Source: Adapted from Brigham Young University Parent Orientation Guide and The
way for parents to help their students. Immediately calling a professor or a roommate
behalf of your student is not. Listen, offer advice, and wait to hear back from them
how they have handled the problem and what the outcome was. If you don't hear back
immediately, that means that they probably have dealt with the situation satisfactorily
their own with your great advice. If you are asked again about the same situation,
and offer advice again. Intervene only when you feel that the situation has reached
where professional consultation with someone on the faculty or staff is necessary.
Encourage your student, however, to work through the problem on his/her own if at
Catholic University of America Parent Orientation Guide