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Your Role as a Parent is represented by a Curry College student posing for a pic with his mother at Commencment

As parents and family members, you play an important role as partners in your student's college success. We are aware of the tremendous role that you have played in your student's education throughout the years. We believe you can continue to play a valuable role in your student's college experience.

We recognize that the college transition process, and the changes that happen throughout the college years, are an adjustment for you as well as for your student. As your student gains independence and is increasingly accountable for their own decisions and actions, your role will change. You may be going from caretaking to coaching, from calling all the shots to cheering from the sideline, but remain confident that your opinion matters to your student. Your opinion matters to us as well, and we value your relationship with the College.

At Curry College, we are committed to providing you with appropriate information and support to help you help your student develop independence, knowledge and communication skills, responsibility, leadership, and life-long success.

Asking the Right Questions

Your college student may have been an outstanding scholar in high school, or they may have struggles throughout their academic career. Their patterns of being a student have been set for years. However, college provides a new academic start for students. Students who breezed through high school may find themselves challenged for the first time. Students who found themselves labeled as poor students may find that the fresh start gives them new energy and perspective on their studies.

Your student may reach a point where they worry about their grades, complains about the amount and difficulty of the work, is aggravated at the professor, and is generally discouraged. What is a parent to do?

First of all - listen! Let your student vent. Sometimes, that may be all that is necessary. But second, ask some questions to help your student try to figure out what they can do to make things better. Help them think about what action they can take.

Here are 12 questions that you might ask:

  1. Have you talked to the professor about the problem?
  2. How much time are you spending on your work outside of class?
  3. Where are you studying?
  4. When are you studying?
  5. How are you managing your time?
  6. How are you reading your material?
  7. Have you considered getting help?
  8. Have you considered forming a study group?
  9. How are you doing at taking class notes?
  10. Is there a specific stumbling block?
  11. What are your academic goals? Do you want to do better?
  12. What do you plan to do now?

Your New Role As a College Parent: From Caretaking to Coaching

You may not have thought of yourself as a coach before, but as the parent of a college student, your new role involves less caretaking and more coaching of your student as they work to gain independence and responsibility. Many of the world's greatest athletes credit their success to the influence of their coaches. They recognize that, while they may have certain abilities, they need the teaching, insight, and training that a quality coach can provide.

Because this role of coach is new to many of us, it might help us to gain some inspiration from some of the world's most outstanding coaches. They may have been coaching athletes, but much of their advice rings true for college parents as well.

"Probably my best quality as a coach is that I ask a lot of challenging questions and let the person come up with the answer." - Phil Dixon - Director, Hoops Skool

We often think of the coach as the person with all of the answers - all of the knowledge to be imparted to the players. Maybe, as coaches, we need to try harder to ask the right questions rather than providing the right answers. Of course, if we're going to "let the person come up with the answer", we're going to have to live with the answer. Even, sometimes, if we don't agree.

"Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you." - John Wooden - Basketball Coach

As parents of college students, we want the best for our children. But we often need to remind ourselves that the goals for which our students strive must be their goals. College students need an opportunity to explore the world and their own interests. We need to be there to support and offer feedback, but students should not be working for our goals for them. We need to allow them to find their own driving force.

"I never criticize a player until they are first convinced of my unconditional confidence in their abilities." - John Robinson - Football Coach

How often, in our eagerness to encourage our students to strive for bigger and better things, do we forget to make sure that they know we believe - not just in them, but in their abilities? It's not enough that we have confidence in their abilities, they need to be convinced of our confidence. We need to tell them, and tell them again, and tell them again, that we know they are capable. With that foundation, we can go ahead and point them toward ways to use those abilities more productively.

"Overcoaching is the worst thing you can do to a player." - Dean Smith - College Basketball Coach

If coaching is good, can there ever be too much of a good thing? Apparently. Sometimes, taking a step back and allowing the player's natural instinct to come through is just what's needed. Sometimes, taking a step back and allowing the advice to sink in is just what's needed. Sometimes, just getting out of the way and letting the player fumble the ball, may be the lesson that's needed. Knowing how much is enough is important.

"Coaching is a profession of love. You can't coach people unless you love them." - Eddie Robinson - College Football Coach

Enough said.

Become your student's "coach of the year!"

Helping Your College Student with Siblings at Home

As your student heads off to college, you may be feeling the "empty nest" syndrome, even though there are still other children at home. The family is different now, with one or more students off to college. We know that things are different and we work to adjust to the new family dynamic. However, parents and college students are not the only ones making an adjustment. When your college student leaves home, siblings remaining at home will be feeling the change, and the loss, as well. There are some things that we can think about as parents, and that we can help your student to think about, to make this adjustment go smoothly for siblings remaining at home.

Obviously, how we deal with siblings at home will depend on their age. A sibling in high school, approaching college themselves, will have different perceptions and needs than a young child. Family dynamics are also unique and vastly different. But certain actions and conversations may be helpful to anyone.

Sibling relationships are some of the most unique and enduring relationships in our lives. These relationships change and grow throughout our lives. With a little bit of forethought and attention, the changes that occur between siblings during the college years can be productive and exciting and can strengthen the relationship for years to come.

Before Your Student Leaves for School

  • Encourage your college student to talk about their feelings with their sibling. Are they excited about college?  Are they nervous?  Are they a little sad or worried about leaving the family? Helping a sibling to understand that the college student may have some conflicted feelings may help them to deal with and talk about their own feelings and may make the leaving process less mysterious and overwhelming.
  • Encourage your college student to be patient with their sibling.  As exciting as it is, the leave-taking process is stressful for everyone.  Tempers may be short and emotions may be running high.  Your college student may need to be a bit more patient with their sibling and may need to work to understand their feelings and reasons for their actions.  It is a stressful time for those left at home as well as for the student who will be leaving.
  • Your college student might invite their sibling to become involved in the process and help them get ready.  They can help them pack, or make lists, or shop.  This will remind the sibling that they will not be shut out of your college student's life and the college experience.
  • Your college student might ask the sibling to make them something to take to college with them.  It might be a picture, an art or craft project or anything else that the sibling can create. 
  • Encourage your college student to spend a bit of extra time with their sibling.  The summer before college is a busy time: students are working, packing, preparing, and usually trying to spend as much time as possible with friends.  A bit of extra time spent with their sibling will remind the sibling that they haven't been, and won't be, forgotten.
  • Remember that once your college student has left, the family dynamic will change.  The sibling (or siblings) remaining at home will now have a new position in the family.  Perhaps responsibilities will change.  Perhaps activities may change.  Room arrangements may even change.  Be sensitive to the upheaval the sibling may be experiencing.
  • Consider giving the sibling a journal or notebook in which they can document important activities or thoughts to share with the college student when they return.
  • Encourage the sibling to communicate with the college student through phone conversations, e-mail, snail mail or text messaging.  A younger sibling can draw and send pictures or school papers to share.
  • Encourage your college student to stay in touch with their sibling.  They can call or write, talk to their sibling when they call home, or even consider letting a sibling visit campus if that is practical.
  • Allow a sibling to help prepare a care package to send to the college student.  They can think about what should be included and can help gather or make items.

When Your Student Returns Home

  • Remember when your college student returns home that the family dynamic will change once again. Your student will need to remember that things at home may have changed while they were away. Young siblings will have grown, siblings will have a new place in the family and may have different attitudes and responsibilities.
  • Be sensitive to the at-home sibling when the college student returns. You will be happy to have your college student home for a visit, but don't ignore the at-home child. Find ways to do things together, if possible.
  • Encourage your college student to find some special time to spend with their sibling while they are home. This is a good opportunity to reconnect.
  • Be prepared to navigate changing and differing expectations and rules when your student returns home. There may now be some double-standards or different rules for the college student and their younger siblings.

As a college parent, you want to support your college student in any way that you can. You talk on the phone (but not too much), you send mail (students love mail), you send care packages (hopefully food), you listen when they share, but there is a limit to what you can do. You will need to help your student find their increasing independence and sense of responsibility by encouraging them to find and use appropriate on-campus support systems.

Your college student may continue to turn to you for help. Or they may feel that being grown up means that they need to do everything for themselves. In either case, they may not be finding and taking advantage of the resources available to them.

Although, as parents or other family members, you have served many of these support functions for your student through the years, as college parents your task is to direct your student to find their own support system. Encourage your student to reach out to those around them.

Cheering Your College Student on From a Distance

As parents, we want to support our college student in every way that we can.  We want them to know that we are aware that they are working hard.  We want them to know that we are proud of them. We want to be present to see the fruits of their efforts, and to see them shine.  The problem is that sometimes we simply can't get to campus and we need to do our supporting from afar.

What do you do if your student is participating in that important athletic event, playing or singing in that important concert, performing in that play, dancing in that show, being inducted in that honor society, or receiving that prestigious award and you can't make the trip to the college to be there?  As a parent, you're disappointed and you feel that you've let your student down.  Intellectually, you know that you have no choice, but emotionally, it is difficult. 

Although nothing is the same as being able to be there in person for your student, here are a few suggestions that may help you through this disappointing situation.

  • Be sure that you tell your student how proud you are of them and that you wish that you could be there.  You know that they know, but it's good to hear.
  • Acknowledge that this is emotionally difficult for everyone, but know that your student will understand.  Although they'll probably be disappointed too, if you've been there to support them all along the way, they'll understand that you'd be there if you possibly could.
  • Recognize that your student may not be the only one who will not have family at the event.  Several students may be too far from home for parents to attend.
  • Consider whether there is an alternative that you might be able to attend.  If the conflict is the date rather than the distance, could you get to a dress rehearsal or playoff game?
  • Send something special to your student that will arrive on the day of the event.  If this is an especially important event, send flowers, balloon bouquet, candygram, something out of the ordinary, to mark the event.
  • Send a special, handwritten letter expressing your pride.  (Chances are that your student will cherish that letter and keep it for a very long time.)
  • Call your student just before or just after the event to wish them good luck and see how it went.
  • Find another family who may be attending the event and ask them to "adopt" your student.  They can make a special point of seeking them out, perhaps deliver a card from you, perhaps take them out to dinner to celebrate or accompany them to the event.
  • Consider whether you know any other family members or friends in the area who might be able to attend in your place.
  • Ask your student to take lots of pictures, or to ask others for their pictures, to send to you.
  • Recognize that, although your student will undoubtedly miss you being there, they have probably developed a circle of close friends and contacts who will support them.  Part of the college experience is expanding the circle of support beyond the immediate family. No one will ever take your place, but your student is gaining the ability to turn to others in their life for support and encouragement.
  • Remind yourself that your disappointment is two-fold. You may be worried that your student will miss your presence, and you are also disappointed for yourself.  You want to be there to share the experience.  Acknowledge your personal disappointment. It is valid and real.

If, throughout your student's elementary and high school career, you were the parent who faithfully attended every event in which your child participated, missing an important event at college may be a new and emotionally difficult experience.  Knowing that this may be only the first of many such occasions in the future is of little comfort.  Recognizing that there are ways that you can still show your student support may help.  Remember that your student is gaining a sense of independence and understanding. They know you care - even from afar.

"Senioritis" is described as decreased motivation for studies evidenced by students who are nearing graduation. In its most serious form, it can lead to failed courses and delayed graduation or deflated grades which can have on-going negative effects for those seeking to go on to graduate work.

Seniors are carrying more than their share of emotional concerns during their last semester. The initial step in easing the symptoms is to simply recognize that the causes are real. Accepting those realities, talking about them and facing them head on with your senior student is much more effective than having them try to hide from these realities or "partying" them away.

Is "Senioritis" catching? The answer is yes, as we are all susceptible to being influenced by the moods of those around us. Happy people make us happy, sad people make us feel sad, etc. Seniors need to stick together and support each other in the fight against senioritis.

Your Support = Their Success

You’ve done an amazing job preparing your student for college. Now that they’re here, you can still be a big part of ensuring their long term success.