Your Child Is Going To College! – Parents: Embrace Your New Role

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pat_Smith_ond17By Dr. Patricia H. Smith 

 

I recently watched an episode of the television series “Lost in Space.” One of the main characters – Will Robinson – gets separated from his family and befriends a robot to comfort, protect and warn him of danger. For example, when Will is in trouble, the robot yells out “Danger – Will Robinson – Danger.” It would be so nice if we could send a personal robot to college with our students to comfort, protect and warn them of danger. No such luck! Attending college is a real-world experience that requires students to make decisions, manage their time well, keep on track and prepare for their future. However, just because your student leaves the nest for college doesn’t mean that you are off the hook with helping him/her make decisions. A college campus is a community that includes learning, housing, activities and services that students need to thrive. As a parent, you may want to become familiar with campus services.

Most campuses have numerous campus services (tutoring services, counseling and advisement centers) to help a student successfully transition from high school/home to college. As a parent, you might have an idea of the campus services your student will need for a successful transition to college living. For example, if a student struggles with writing skills, he/she will probably benefit from the services offered at the campus’ writing center.

With new independence, comes the pressure of self-reliance and not seeking help when needed. An important message that a parent can give a student is that asking for help does not mean that you are no longer independent, and it certainly doesn’t mean failure. To make it real for the student you can discuss a time when you or your family needed help in response to a situation and the outcome and benefit you received.

Below are some reasons why students’ hesitate and do not seek campus assistance.

  • Needing to prove themselves – either to themselves or to family and friends
  • Feeling that needing help admits failure
  • Not recognizing that they need help
  • Not knowing how to advocate for themselves or to go about asking for the help that they need.
  • Unfamiliar with the resources, help and support that is generally available on college campuses

Campus Services

In addition to having the awareness of campus services, students also need to know where the services are located, hours of operations and how to use the services. It is equally important that parents know and become generally familiar with these services. Many colleges will invite parents to a ‘family celebration weekend’ and this is a great opportunity for parents to learn about campus services. At this event, you may receive handouts, brochures, telephone numbers, etc.  Collect them all and place the most important information on your refrigerator at home. Don’t forget to grab the school academic calendar. This tool will provide information about dates for mid-term, final exams, etc.

 List of some campus services:

The Advising Office – When students need help with selecting courses and other academic matters this is an important resource.

The Tutoring or Writing Centers –These services are invaluable for students wanting to receive one-on-one assistance with understanding, improving or expanding their knowledge in subject areas and/or writing.

Other Academic Support Centers – These services provide academic support, such as dedicated math labs, a public speaking center to improve oral presentations, and computer labs, etc.

The Campus Health Center – These professionals are there to respond to health needs.

Campus Counseling Center – These professionals will help students with managing stress, anxiety and pre-existing psychological issues. Or just listening when a student needs a professional ear.

The Career Services Office – This office can help students find campus jobs, locate internship opportunities, create resumes, and practice their interviewing skills.

Spiritual Life Office – This office provides spiritual support and can assist students with adjusting to campus life.

Campus Services And Missing Home

There are several reasons why and what a student generally misses about home: home cooked meals, their rooms/beds, their own shower, pets, friends and yes, parents. Campus services can assist students with managing their longing for the closeness of loved ones and home. Once the student is on campus, how do you continue to steer him/her towards services? When you interact with the student ask questions, gently probe and listen and if you sense that something might be wrong encourage, her/him to take advantage of the resources on campus. Finally, lovingly remind the student that a break from the campus is coming soon and they soon will return back to the comforts of home.

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