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1 Parenting a College Student ARCS arts.kennesaw.edu/arcs

2 Parenting a COLLEGE STUDENT First of all, congratulations! You ve done an amazing job raising an exceptional student who s ready to take the next step on his or her life journey. I m sure you are, and you should be, proud of what he or she has done, and excited to see what happens next. Whether this is your first child to go to college, or whether you ve done this many times before, sending a child off to college is a tremendously exciting thing to do. It is also a time of great anxiety, both for parents and for students. On top of your pride and excitement, you re likely facing some anxiety: If your student is living on campus, how is your relationship with him or her going to change now that they aren t going to be home with you full time? Is he going to be able to make friends? Will she be able to handle the new academic demands that will be placed on her? Will he ever move out? All of these, and many more, are very real concerns that all parents of college students face. Luckily, a lot of research has been done that looks at the changing role of parents of college students and how they can best support their students through these exciting and challenging times. The tips herein focus on the first year of college, because that s a crucial time that sets the stage for later success. By the second year, you ll both be pros at this. Acknowledge the changes you and your student will experience This is a time of emotional upheaval for parents, because you spend a great deal of time reflecting on your memories. You remember your son s student s first day of kindergarten and you likely have pictures of the first day of school from that time onward. You ve been with your daughter through the thick and thin of her life, so you likely are feeling a strong sense of nostalgia and loss as she prepares to move out. It s important to remember that, while you are going through this, so is your son or daughter. Your student is being pulled between the powerful desire to become an independent adult and an anxiety about what that really means. He or she may even be exhibiting behavior that reflects dramatic emotional ups and downs (as may you be). Your student may also not be able to communicate with you regarding what she or he is going through, because these are difficult feelings to articulate. Remember that you have done a great job in raising a bright, curious, and strong young man or woman. No matter how much your student changes in the first year of college, he or she will still be essentially the same person, though they may have new interests or a new look. Be a good listener and make sure your student knows you will be there for him or her in whatever way he or she is going to need. College students rely heavily on their parents for emotional support and confirmation that they are making the right choices they just don t necessarily want to be told what to do. Be curious and show interest in what is going on in her life, but don t ask too many questions Being the parent of a college student means giving them the space they need to develop into independent adults. Depending on who your son or daughter is, asking too many questions may seem intrusive rather than supportive. You know her better than anyone, so trust that you ll be able to tell what she needs. Focusing on building honest, open communication between two adults is a great way to build a healthy parent-new college student relationship.

3 Don t tell your daughter or son that these are going to be the best years of their lives. Your student is going to change dramatically over the next four or five years, and not every experience they re going to have is going to be a positive one. Just as with any experience, setting expectations too high for what is going to happen can lead to disappointment and frustration. We, as adults and parents, have the luxury of the perspective of time and can look back and recognize the value of the overall experience, but this is difficult to do when you are in the thick of things. Give your son or daughter the space they need to experience the richness of the college experience and trust that they will eventually come to understand how amazing these years can be. Discuss a financial plan Part of becoming an independent adult is learning to care for the financial side of your life, and college is an excellent opportunity to develop these skills. Help your son or daughter develop a budget and discuss who is going to be responsible for what. Teach your son to balance a checkbook, manage a credit/debit card, and to read bank and other financial statements. Help your daughter organize a calendar to track when her expenses are due, and the importance of acting responsibly when it comes to incidental expenses such as snacks, movies, and eating out with friends. These are invaluable lessons for college students to learn. Talk about academic goals and expectations... Many first year college students do not do as well academically as they did in high school, so having open and honest conversations about your and their expectations is a great way to prepare for college success. Successful college students are the ones that take responsibility for their own education, so encourage your student to learn as much as possible about the academic demands of college. She should begin to look at the courses she will have to take for her intended degree program. Try to avoid telling her what she should take, but rather have her begin think about this for herself and talk with her advisor. It s also important to remember that in college, grades are not the only indication of learning. Many upper-level students will tell you that the course they learned the most from was one where they didn t get as high a grade as they would have liked.... But, don t ask them what they re going to do when they graduate Remember that your student is just beginning to discover who he is and what he wants out of life. A lot of pressure is put on students to know exactly what they are going to do with their degree, but this pressure may have an adverse effect on their academic performance today. Remember that they have four years to develop the skills they will need to go out into the world and make a living. Their interests, motivations, and goals are going to change many times over those years. Give them the space they need to explore and find what they are passionate about. Remember that very few of us who are adults are working in the field of our undergraduate degrees, and that it s OK not to know exactly what you want to do as a young adult. The strength of a liberal arts education is that it provides a broad base of skills that may be used in a variety of careers, and degrees in the arts are no exception. Trust them to solve their own problems It s very likely that you are going to hear about problems that your student is having. It is very common that college students will share the good news with friends and call their parents when something isn t going well. Sometimes, they just need to vent and then they can return to their normal, happy lives. When that late night call comes, be a good listener and try to help your student through their decision making process rather than offering solutions. Encourage them to seek campus resources there are many to turn to here at KSU and to confront the problems that they are having and seek help early. We ve provided you with a detailed list of resources on our website ( or you can encourage them to come see us here in the Academic Resource Center. We re always happy to help.

4 Tips for Parents of Students Who Don t Live at Home Visit, but not too often Whether they tell you this or not, college students love the occasional visit from their parents, especially if you take them out for a meal. Parents of College of the Arts students are lucky in this respect, because there are many opportunities to come see your daughter or son perform or exhibit her or his work (visit our box office for a complete schedule). Be sure, however, to tell them you re coming, as surprise visits are rarely appreciated. Respect their space and privacy. Send care packages Yes, it sounds silly, but getting a package from home with a favorite cookie or food, gift card to a favorite store, DVD, or even a toy or game from their childhood can be a real emotional pick-me-up. Write letters, even if they don t write back This may seem antiquated in the world of the text message and , but opening your mailbox and finding something other than a bill can be a very special occurrence for your college student. Letters have a permanence that electronic communication doesn t, and may be something that your student will re-read over and over again. Let them know about changes at home When college students live away from home, one of their expectations may be that things will stay the same while they are away. Letting your student know what s happening at home - whether it s the fact that you ve decided to paint their room a new color, or something more serious like an illness in the family - helps them feel connected, prepares them for the inevitable change that will occur, and, ultimately, builds trust between you. Tips for Parents of Students Living at Home Give them space to become the adults they are going to be If your family has made the choice to have your student live at home, this presents some unique challenges. Your son or daughter s desire for independence is going to be no different than a student who chooses to live on campus, and this may lead to conflict. College students schedules are very different than high schoolers: they have more free time, their sleep and eating habits may change, and they will be exploring their new world and their place in it. Open and honest communication about major issues like privacy, telephone and computer time, use of the car, chores, alcohol and other substances, finances, and curfews can go a long way toward easing these conflicts. Don t just assume that things will stay the same Make a conscious effort to talk about how things are going to change now that your son or daughter is in college. You will have certain expectations for your student, and they will have expectations of you, and it s better to talk about these before they become areas of conflict. Schedule a family meeting where you sit down to address these without distractions. Encourage your child to redecorate their room As one website put it, It s tough to feel grown-up in a bedroom with Power Ranger décor ( When your student lives at home, it can be difficult to separate their college experience from high school. If they redecorate, they can create a space that reflects who they are becoming, and simulate some of the experience that students who choose to live on campus have. You can enhance the educational experience of this by providing them with a budget (or make them pay for it themselves) in order to encourage them to learn to live within fixed financial means.

5 Encourage them to get out of the house when they study While they were likely very comfortable studying at home before, students who live at home sometimes experience difficulty making new friends and connecting to the campus culture. These are very important contributors to academic success in college. Encourage them to study at the library, in the Dining Commons, or at a campus coffee shop,. Consider buying them a hammock that they can hang by the campus gazebo. They can form study groups in their classes, and look for other commuter students with whom they can study. The more that you can do to encourage them to go to places where students congregate on campus, the more they will be able to meet new people and make a comfortable space for themselves here even if they are not living on campus. Get them to join a club or other student organization In addition to studying on campus, joining a club or organization is a great way for them to become connected to campus and make new friends. The KSU website has excellent information about getting involved on campus, so you can direct your student there for more information. They ll be very busy here in the College of the Arts, but having other experiences can be important as well. Don t be their caretaker College students should be responsible for waking themselves up, getting to class on time, keeping their living space clean, doing their own laundry, and paying their own bills. It shouldn t be your role to make sure that they are studying enough or that they are turning in their assignments on time. All of these skills contribute to their development as responsible adults and successful students. Again, clearly communicating about these issues early helps to avoid conflict, and remember... Patience is a virtue Just because your daughter or son is living at home doesn t mean that he or she won t face the same transition issues that other college students face. Depending on who your student is, they may find it easier or harder to make the transition to being an independent adult, but regardless of which case is true, this is still a time of tremendous upheaval. Be patient with your student as they learn what they need to do to be successful at KSU and beyond.

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