Communicating With Your Student

Families: Your Student Is Listening

Parental and familial influence can impact your student’s behavior, especially when your student is transitioning from high school to college. It is important to communicate what behaviors are expected while your student is at college. You most likely have already shaped much of your student’s behaviors and values; this can and should continue as your student starts college. Reiterating what you have already taught them as they head off to school is one more reminder to your student about what behavior is expected.

Providing Support From Home

Your student has experienced stress as a normal life experience, and you have most likely helped them through those periods in their lives. Chances are your student will also feel stress or experience adversity while at college and when away from you. While you can provide some support from home, before they leave, discuss with your student how to strengthen their ability to manage stress in the moment. This will increase their resilience and their ability to bounce back from an adverse situation and perform well under stress.

Letting Go

As your student starts college, they won’t be the only one making adjustments. You’ll also experience adjustments and hardships as your student starts school. That’s normal! As difficult as it may be, it’s important to let go and give your student room to grow and make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes. Here are some tips for letting go and managing the transition.

  • Since you know when your student will be starting college, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare. Do not overestimate starting early—the earlier the better. Start mentally preparing in the summer, or even in the spring of your student’s senior year.
  • Talk to other parents who are going through the same thing, or who have already sent a student off to college. You can also get and share tips for dealing with the transition.
  • Don’t text or call your student all the time. This can make it harder for you to let go, and could make the transition more difficult for your student. You may consider setting up a weekly phone call or video chat.
  • If you do text or call, don’t panic if they don’t answer or respond right away. They could be in class, participating in a student group, studying, hanging out with friends, napping, or many other things. Your student is likely safe and secure and will call or text back when it’s convenient for them.
  • Let your student solve their own problems, including things like roommate disagreements, homework concerns, and failing an exam. This is a time for them to learn and practice life skills, as well as how to advocate for themselves.
  • If your student asks for help, provide it—to an extent. Probably the most helpful thing you can do is connect your student with campus resources and encourage them to solve the issue on their own. You can certainly be there to offer support and help talk through solutions.
  • Listen. This is probably the most important thing you can do. Your student may not want your help with solving their problems; they may just want a sympathetic ear. Listen to their concerns and let them know you care about them no matter what.
  • Normalize struggle, because it is normal! Your student will have ups and downs and that’s okay! It’s part of life and it promotes resiliency. If you had a similar struggle, share your story and how you dealt with it. Encourage your student to take advantage of campus resources.

Everyone loves to get mail—an occasional surprise care package to your student may ease some of your concerns and will be a nice treat for your student. Send their favorite snack, some essential items like laundry detergent or toothpaste, or gift cards to their favorite restaurant. Include a handwritten note of encouragement to let your student know you’re thinking of them.

Remember: you’ve done everything you can to prepare your student for this moment. Now is the time to let them spread their wings and go out on their own.