"PARENTING A COLLEGE FRESHMAN"
As a parent, you are dealing with the same uncharted territory that you son or daughter is trying to navigate as they begin their college career.You will experience their joys and pains, their excitement and anxiety. You may experience it secondhand but it will be nonetheless challenging and emotional.Your goal in this journey is twofold- to help your son/daughter become a successful, independent and autonomous student and to keep your sanity at the same time! The following guidelines will help you make the journey a little easier- for your student and for you.
Lesson 1: Providing Communication and Being Supportive
Take extra time to communicate support and encouragement as feedback is especially important for your student.
Give support and encouragement through letters, cards, emails or care packages.Don’t be surprised if you don’t get a response back but know that your thoughtfulness makes a difference.
Ask Questions but not too many. Questions should communicate that you are interested but at the same time are not trying to interfere. Allow space for your child to set the agenda for some of your conversations. If he or she needs help or support, the subject is more likely to come up if you aren’t inquiring pointedly about what time he or she came in last night.
Ask open ended questions and remember that the goal is to keep communication open.
Be a sounding board rather than a critic. This keeps the door open for both good and bad news.
Good listening is a form of art- interrupting, finishing your student’s sentences and firing off questions does not encourage ongoing dialogue.
Initially, you and your student may feel it necessary to communicate regularly. As the semester progresses, the calls can diminish and may be a sign of the student’s increased autonomy as they become more familiar and comfortable with their surroundings.
Lesson 2: Dealing with crisis and problems
Remind your child that it is ok not to have all the answers all the time.
Remind them that there are people at FAU who can help and encourage them to seek out help.
Listen, listen, listen. Listening is a part of communication. Being a good sounding board and objective listener may be just what your child needs.
Expect highs and lows. Often when troubles become too much for a freshman, the first place they call, turn or write is home. So while you may hear about roommate issues and midterm stress, know that there are also new friends and “A” papers that you may not always hear about. Don’t be surprised if the “I want to come home” is followed the next day by “my roommate and I went to the movies last night and had the best time!”
Don’t over react to those first frantic phone calls. Listen carefully and try to determine best how to address your child’s need at the moment.
Brainstorm options and a possible course of action with your child as problems arise. Generating choices with your child conveys that you care and also puts the responsibility on him/her to follow up.
Help breakdown a larger problem into smaller more manageable parts. This will help your child feel more in control of the situation and less overwhelmed.
Lesson 3: Dealing with change
Your student will change (either drastically within the first months or slowly over for years – or somewhere in between). It is natural, inevitable and it can be inspiring and beautiful. It can also make you a wreck.
Make sure that your student knows that change is exciting but it can also be stressful.
Don’t let it worry you that the same person planning her life can’t do her laundry.
Remember a student calendar may run from 7 am - 2 am. Don’t expect them to keep the same hours that they did at home.
Recognize that part of why we send our sons and daughters to college is for them to grow and change.
Be prepared to let them determine their own future, even when its not the one you had in mind for them.
Take comfort in knowing that the formation of identity, independence and intimacy are as much a part of college as algebra and literature.