College is a rite of passage for students, a time filled with excitement and possibilities. Everything is new and an adventure. Moving on to college represents a significant step towards adulthood whether the student lives at home or goes away to attend school. This transition into adulthood is a huge development step for your student, for you as a parent and for the rest of your family. Joy and some sadness are natural responses to the changing relationship between you and your student.
Like most new things, your student will face challenges that may come with transition…
Homesickness – A most common occurrence for new students. It can hit any student at any time. It’s not uncommon for it to come in waves, receding and reappearing over the course of the year.
Fitting In – One of the greatest concerns of new students is will they find friends and make connections. Most students are coming from the security of family and a long standing social group. It can be stressful to try to decipher new social norms find a niche.
Balancing academics and social life – College offers so many opportunities for connections and distractions. There are many new academic interests, friends, activities, things to do and places to go, especially in a vibrant city like Seattle. Learning to balance the new workload and freedoms of college takes time.
Roommate conflicts - Living with a new person, in close quarters when both of experiencing a great amount of transition can be stressful.
Risk-taking behaviors - The opportunity to make decisions on one’s own and the excitement of being in a new place are a part of the maturation process. In some cases it can lead to poor decision-making.
Coming back home – Students returning home for their first extended break brings another transition to the family. Students have been on their own, managing their time and activities. Family dynamics in the home have changed since their departure as well.
They are excited to see family and old friends and usually come back tired and with lots of dirty laundry! They are happy to be home but frequently feel like they are just visiting because all their personal items are back on campus. This “dual home” phenomenon can be unsettling for everyone.
These changes are normal occurrences in a student’s development as they discover their own independence. As parents, you know your student better than any one. If you become aware of a significant change that seems to be beyond these normal transitions, you can encourage your student to seek out the variety of resources available on campus - counseling staff, faculty, academic advisors, residence hall staff, campus ministry, health center, etc.
The art of parenting an emerging adult requires the right balance between intervening thoughtfully during a true crisis and standing aside during mild difficulties, so that students can work these through and develop their own competencies. Your on-going communication with your student will help you know when you need to actively support your student and when he/she needs to stand on his/her own. Undoubtedly there will be bumps in the road for your student. Recognize the difference between venting, complaining and stressing out that is typical of college students and the kind of extreme distress that signals the need for intervention. Remember that the university has many resources available to your student.
Your student starts college this fall. If this is your first, you’ve never been through this before. We want to help you through this important first year. Here are some recommendations from Seattle University staff who work with students every day.
1: Just say “Not MY job”
Don’t take responsibility for business your son or daughter should take care of. It is their responsibility—not yours—to register for classes, visit Student Financial Services, look for work-study positions, obtain a Campus Card, and do all the other chores associated with being a student.
Students need to learn to manage their own affairs and think for themselves. College is a great place to start.
2: Don’t worry—be patient
It’s natural for students to feel overwhelmed at times. It does not always mean that something is wrong. Some first-time students are excited and in high spirits for weeks, but then the adrenaline and novelty subside and the pressures mount: living with a roommate, time management, the intensity of college courses; a dwindling checking account. Homesickness sets in. That’s when you might get a phone call and detect some degree of distress.
The best approach is to listen, but don’t try to fix the problem. Sometimes just talking it out will help your child sort out problems. Encourage him or her to get involved in campus life. Students can work with the Residence Hall Association, the Student Government of Seattle University, the Spectator, or choose from more than 100 clubs and 35 intramural and recreational sports.
3: Remember, help is there
Don’t forget there are lots of people to help on campus. If students have issues in the residence hall or with a roommate, they can discuss it with a Resident Assistant. Trouble getting the hang of college studying? The Learning Center can help. Confused about the core curriculum? Students can make appointments to talk with their academic advisers. Wanting to meet people and get involved? The Center for Student Involvement can help.
4: Homesickness remedies
Here are some things you can do to relieve homesickness. Send packages of things reminiscent of home: favorite snacks, hometown newspapers, family pictures, the kid sister’s homework, letters from you and other family members. (Don’t expect to get many letters back, though. Students rarely write back, but you may get an email or a phone call.)
5: Stay Connected
Call, text, etc. Show an interest in what your son or daughter is doing, don’t just focus on questions about school. Talk about your family, your neighborhood, and what’s going on at the high school, etc. Also, send e-mail, letters and a package of treats from time to time.
6: Vacation plans
During breaks from school, plan family events so that students can be back on campus the day before classes begin. Missing classes puts your student at an academic disadvantage.
7: Finals week is not fatal
The first time through finals week is intense. Papers are due, reading assignments are backed up, co-curricular activities are through the roof. Pressure to do well is at its peak. Encourage your student to keep up with school work during the quarter, get plenty of rest, eat regularly, drink lots of water, and exercise. They’ll get through it and be better prepared for the next round.
8: Home for the holidays
The first time your son or daughter returns home from college, you’ll notice changes. Remember that students have been independent for months, setting their own rules.
Students are usually exhausted following final exams. Many parents report that students sleep much of the time they’re home from school.
Don’t worry… that is normal.
Check out the webinar found in our Webinar sections on Home for the Holidays.
9: Family Weekend is a Blast
Come to Family Weekend, where you can experience life at SU; meet faculty, RAs, staff members and other parents; and see what students see every day. This is a fall quarter event. Found out more about Family Weekend.
10: If you’re really concerned, call us
Most problems students experience are things they can manage themselves with support from you and university resources. But sometimes students face problems they can’t handle. If you are convinced that your son or daughter may be having serious problems, call the Student Development Office, (206-296-6066). The university provides many options for helping students.