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Information for Parents


What your child may experience:

For your son or daughter, college will likely be a period of intellectual stimulation and growth, career exploration and development, increased autonomy, self-exploration and discovery, and social involvement. During this period, your children may forge new identities or seek to clarify their values and beliefs. This may require an examination of self, friends, and family. It may also be a time for exploration and experimentation, and a period in which your children may question or challenge the values you hold dear. The changes your son or daughter may experience can occur quickly, as they begin to develop new peer relationships, gain competence in new areas, and learn to manage their independence. It is important to recognize that every child will experience his or her own unique set of challenges and adjustments, just as every parent will have different expectations for and reactions to their child's college experience.


What parents may experience:

Often overlooked is the fact that the college experience is a significant transition for parents as well as their children. As parents, you may experience feelings of happiness, excitement, and pride when your child leaves for college. At the same time, you may feel a sense of sadness and pain and have understandable fears and concerns about your child's future and well-being. You may worry about your child's safety and ability to care effectively for him or herself. You may fear losing your child as he or she begins to function more independently and form deep attachments with peers. You may be concerned about how your child will deal with alcohol, drugs, and sexual relationships. You may also wonder how your child's performance in college will reflect on you as the parent.

Recognize that feelings of conflict, happiness, excitement, sadness and ambivalence about your child's 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 have. 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 other sources of support.


Tips on how to support your child:

Be sure to keep open communication going on a regular basis. Pick a regular time to talk that fits both schedules. Creating a routine is good for you because you will feel less intrusive. It may be good for your child because if they stay out of touch for long periods of time and then need your help, it might feel awkward to break the silence. It is important to maintain regular contact with your child, but also to allow space for your child to approach you and set the agenda for some of your conversations.

Let your child know that you respect and support his or her right to make independent decisions and that you will serve as an advocate and an advisor when asked. Let your child know that they do not have to protect you from their problems. Engage in active listening. Be patient; allow them to finish their argument or point before formulating a response. Finally, recognize that it is normal for your child to seek your help one day and reject it the next. Such behavior can be confusing and exhausting for parents, so make sure to take care of yourself by talking about your feelings with your own support system.

Be realistic and specific with your child about financial issues including what you will and will not pay for, as well as your expectations for how your son or daughter will spend money. 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.

It is also important to be realistic about your child's academic performance, recognizing that not every straight-A student in high school will be a straight-A student in college. The University attracts bright students from all over the world, and not every freshman who excelled academically in high school will be an all-A student here. Developing or refining the capacity to work independently, 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. Help your children set realistic academic goals; encourage them to do their best and to seek assistance if needed.

Know the warning signs. You know your child better than anyone, and it is important that you still keep alert to the signs of change, upset, and distress. If you notice symptoms of depression, substance abuse, anxiety, eating disorders, or suicidal thinking - start a dialogue with your child that will facilitate support and help.

The fact that your child has left home does not necessarily prevent family problems from arising or continuing. Refrain from burdening your children with problems from home they have no control over and can do nothing about. Sharing these problems with your children may cause them to worry excessively and even feel guilty that they are away from home and unable to help.

If your child does experience difficulties at UGA, encourage him or her to take advantage of the wealth of resources available for students. For academic issues, talking with the professor, teaching assistant, or academic advisor is probably the first step, but the Academic Enhancement and Career Center are also both available to help. The Office of the Dean of Students can assist with a variety of concerns. If your son or daughter could benefit from counseling, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is located in the Health Center and can be reached by calling 706-542-2273. UGA is a big place, but you can help your child by reminding him or her of the many resources available on a large campus.


Sources:
ccvillage.buffalo.edu/vpc.html
Kadison, R. & Digeronimo, T.F. (2004). College of the overwhelmed: The campus mental health crisis and what to do about it. Josey-Bass, San Francisco. pgs:183-212