Adjustments Just for Parents
Having your student begin their university career can be a stressful experience for parents, especially if your student hasn't lived away from home before. During this important time of transition for the family, many parents put their own feelings and reactions on hold while helping their student prepare for university life. Attending to your own emotional needs, however, as well as your student's, will go a long way toward helping everyone feel comfortable with the challenges that going to college represents.
Read below to find some strategies and ideas that might help you over the next few months.
Coping Strategies & "Food for Thought"
- Recognize that feelings of ambivalence about your student leaving home are normal.
For most families, this step can seem like a dramatic separation of parent and child, although it is usually the separation of adult from almost-adult. It is normal, too, to look forward to the relative peace and quiet of having your active older adolescent out of the house and having the place to yourself, or being able to spend time with your younger children!
- Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up.
There is little benefit in pretending that you don't feel sad, guilty, relieved, apprehensive, or whatever feelings you do have, while your student is getting ready to come to the University. You probably aren't fooling anyone by trying to hide your reactions; a healthier approach is to talk about them-with your family, friends, clergy, or whoever is a source of support for you.
- Make "overall wellness" a goal for yourself.
Especially during stressful times, it helps to get enough sleep, eat healthful meals regularly, and get adequate exercise. Spending some recharging time-doing the special things that you especially like-is another step toward wellness. If you are feeling good, you are more likely to have the energy to help your student and be a good role model.
- Remember that, for your student, coming to the University is a tremendously important developmental step toward full adulthood.
It represents the culmination of the teachings and learning of 18 years or so-much of it geared toward helping your student assume a productive place in the world. This is the time when your hard work will show itself in the form of a framework that your first year student will use in beginning to make independent choices. Many parents find that it helps to focus on the fact that providing your student with this opportunity is a priceless gift. Be proud of yourself!
- Find a new creative outlet for yourself.
Especially parents whose last or only student has moved away to college find that taking on a new challenge is an excellent way to manage and channel their energy and feelings. Have you ever wanted to write a book? Learn to fly-fish? Make a quilt? Volunteer in your community? Assume a new project or responsibility at work? Travel? Get your own bicycle and ride all over town? Make a list of all the things you intended to do while your child was growing up, but never had the time to do. Now is your chance!
What Can I Do to Help My Student from a Distance?
Of course, you are still a parent to your almost-adult, and they still need your support and guidance during the college years. Here are some ways you can express your caring and enhance your student's experience at K-State.
- Stay in touch!
Even though your student is experimenting with independent choices, they still need to know that you're there and are available to talk over both normal events and difficult issues. Make arrangements to write or call your student on a regular basis.
- Allow space for your student to set the agenda for some of your conversations.
If they need help or support, the subject is more likely to come up if you aren't inquiring pointedly about what time they came in last night!
- Be realistic with your college student about financial matters.
Most students come to school with a fairly detailed plan about how tuition, fees, books, and room and board will be paid for, and what the family's expectations are about spending money. Being specific at the outset may help avoid misunderstandings later.
- Be realistic as well about academic achievement and grades.
The University attracts bright students from all over the world, and not every first year student who excelled academically in high school will be an all-A student here. Developing or refining the capacity to work independently and consistently and to demonstrate mastery can be more important than grades, as long as the student meets the basic academic requirements set out by the University. Again, these are choices that each individual student makes, though certainly it is appropriate to help your student set their own long-term goals.
- If your student does experience difficulties at K-State, encourage them to take advantage of the wealth of resources available for students.
Whether it is an academic or personal issue, K-State has resources to help students. Check out K-State’s website for academic support or student life resources. If you don’t know where to go, call an office and ask.
We hope these ideas and suggestions will be helpful to you in dealing with some of the difficulties parents experience when their student goes to college. The time spent at K-State can be a tremendously exciting opportunity, both for students and their families, and we hope and trust that you and your student will have a rewarding experience!
Taken from "Just for Parents", which was originally written for the University of Texas-Austin Counseling & Mental Health Center by Barbara Burnham, Ph.D. and adapted for the K-State site with their permission. (djl 7/28/2004)