Transitioning from high school to college is an exciting time, but one that can also be anxiety-filled, for both students and parents. Here are some tips that parents may find helpful as their children head off to school.
Students love to get mail, especially letters and care packages. First-year students are eager to experience away-from-home independence, but most still desire family ties. Even if they don't write back, most freshmen appreciate news about home and family.
DON'T ASK IF YOUR CHILD IS HOMESICK.
Unless freshmen are reminded, they'll probably be able to deal with homesickness. Know that they do miss you. If you have concerns, encourage your child to meet with a peer coach, resident assistant or counselor in the Wellness Center.
EXPECT CHANGE IN YOUR STUDENT.
It's natural, inevitable, and it can be inspiring and beautiful. Maturation is not an instantaneous process, but it can seem especially dramatic since so much has happened since you last saw your student in person.
EXPECT CHANGE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP.
Students need to learn how to advocate for themselves, utilize resources to solve problems, manage time, and take care of their physical, emotional and academic well-being. Your new role as a parent is to listen, encourage, empathize, and remind your student that these changes are a normal part of growing up.
ASK QUESTIONS AND DON'T PANIC ABOUT OCCASIONAL COMPLAINTS
. While they are now largely on their own, most students still appreciate the security of knowing you are interested in them. Honest inquiries and parent-child discussions will help strengthen your evolving relationship. You may get that "nothing-is-going-right-I-hate-this-place" phone call or text. Unfortunately, complaints may be the only time a students feels an urge to communicate actively with you at home. Sometimes, calling you to vent is enough to relieve the stress. Often, students just want you to listen. Asking about what is going well can be a good way to redirect a negative conversation.
NO ROAD TRIPS
. Encourage your student to stay at school on weekends.
WAIT TO VISIT.
Family Weekend is scheduled intentionally to allow students enough time on campus to get established before their first visit from family members
DON'T JUMP TO FIX YOUR STUDENT'S PROBLEMS
. Instead, point him or her in the direction of valuable resources on campus: Wellness Center, director of Residence Life, Teaching & Learning Center, Career & Professional Readiness Center, First-Year Student Office, etc. Refer your student as necessary.
SET BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS
. They provide guidance at home and can do the same while your child is at school.
Talk to your student about credit cards and managing money.
ALCOHOL USE AND ABUSE.
Talk to your student about drugs and alcohol. College Parents of America has eight talking points to help parents begin a discussion about alcohol with their children.
PAY ATTENTION TO MIDTERM GRADES
. If they do not meet expectations, encourage your student to consult with professors, meet with an adviser and visit the Teaching and Learning Center for academic support.
BE AWARE OF THE SIGNS OF DEPRESSION.
Feel free to contact the SBU Wellness Center for information about signs and symptoms.
TALK TO YOUNGER SIBLINGS.
Prepare them for the absence of a big brother or sister, and encourage your SBU student to spend time with younger siblings before departing.
REMEMBER: COLLEGE IS A ROLLER COASTER
. A student's first year can be full of indecision, insecurities, disappointments and mistakes. It is also jam-packed with discovery, inspiration, good times and new people. Students, like their parents, learn to adapt to ups and downs of daily life. This will service them well as they progress through the next few years in college and into independent life.
TRUST YOUR STUDENT.
Finding your way is difficult enough without feeling those you love and respect are second-guessing you. Have faith in your student's ability to make his or her own choices. Tell them you trust them to make the best decisions or to do the right things.
GET EXCITED ABOUT SOPHOMORE YEAR.
Yes, freshman year does come to an end, and on its heels comes sophomore year, with new opportunities and challenges. Remind your child to participate in unique programs for upper-class students, review academic plans with an adviser, search for internships, and catch up on things they ran out of time to do freshman year.