The College Years: Parental Involvement Continues
By: Sheri Jefferson
How many of us, as parents, have a hard time cutting the apron strings? How many of us want to help our children every step of the way? How many of us want to prevent our children from making any mistakes? How many of us know that we have to let our children grow?
We all want the best for our children and that definitely does not change when they head off to college. The question becomes how we transform our role when they begin this new phase of their life? We can no longer be that cautious parent we were when they were in middle school and definitely not that overprotective parent we were when they were in high school. We have to let them go, grow and experience life.
The transformation is simple if it is executed correctly. As a college administrator I have witnessed this transformation having positive and negative effects on the student. The parent cannot take a hands-off approach when their child leaves for college. You still must be actively involved in your child’s well being and overall college experience. I find that this approach has the most positive effect on the success of the child. Studies also show that students welcome parental involvement while in college. Some parents don’t understand the transformation and that causes it to get a little messy.
The transformation is a process and you have to understand a few key components. I have created a short checklist.
Know your child
Realize that you are not going to be there to monitor every move
Understand that this is another opportunity for your child to grow
You may be thinking how simple but you will never realize how many people mess it up. When I say know your child I am saying if your child is quiet and an introvert your child may not question the instructor when something may not be quite right with a grade or test. Your child may not ask for help when it is needed. These things will cause your child to become discouraged and may even drop out of school. If you know your child this will allow you to help them navigate through the process.
You may have monitored your child closely at home but you will not be able to do that at college. I think it is counterproductive to do so. I have learned that this behavior may cause your child to be unsuccessful and in some cases rebel. However, I strongly encourage parents to be actively involved in their child’s grades and whereabouts. You can do this without being overbearing. Active involvement is getting your child’s user id and password to access grades and other important information. Active involvement means meeting your child’s “new” friends. It is always a good practice for parents to visit the campus from time to time. You will never know how much your presence will impact your child’s success. You don’t need to become an additional roommate but as I stated before, you definitely do not want to take a hands-off approach. College is an awesome growth mechanism for your child. You have to let them grow.
Change is inevitable, growth is optional. Whether your child decided to go to college on his own or with your prodding; change is going to happen. What we need to ensure is that there is a growth opportunity in everything. If you decide that you are going to do everything for your child then you are not allowing them the growth opportunity that they will need to succeed in life after college. As a parent of a child going to college I use every opportunity to let him do things on his own. Will I be there when he can’t figure something out; of course but I want him to try. I know the college process because of my experience but I still let him find things out on his own. I let him ask the questions and this will help him learn and grow.
College is an exciting time for both the child and the parent. It can also be a very rewarding experience. We have to relax and realize that we have raised responsible young people but we also have to realize that they are not quite adults and still need our guidance.