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Every Parent Should...

Every college parent should know:

  • the importance of finding, downloading, filling out, and printing a FAFSA form and why.
  • that when your child calls with a problem, they are not asking you to solve it, just listen to their dilemma. Since they’re opening up, avoid “how did this happen, how could you…?” Instead encourage them to consider the alternatives and think about what is their gut instinct.
  • that your child is well prepared and that you did a good job. Don’t expect them to handle things as you would. The dazed look on their face is not the result of failing to know what to do; it’s the result of struggling with how to communicate with you without triggering any response.
  • growth requires making mistakes. We have to let them make mistakes. A big part of college is making choices, wrong ones, and then recovering from them.
  • that in most cases parents don’t find out until after the fact. This is good experience, they make a mistake, suffered the repercussions, but…then solved the problem themselves. Growth occurs… we laugh about it together after the fact.
  • that your student is not leaving you. They are just going off to school, they will be coming home from time to time, and they are still apart of your family.
  • NOT to make changes that make it look like your are continuing your family life without them.
  • to let your student try to do things on his or her own. Every time they call and say that they need money, let them try to figure out how to manage. It’s the only way that they will learn to be independent and responsible—after all, they are now mini-adults.
  • that sending your first child off to college is not as heartbreaking as you expect it to be. With the ease of communication, be it e-mail, or free nights and weekend cell phone minutes, you might find you have more real conversations with them while they’re away at school than you did before they left!
  • the U of M campus. Become familiar with it before your student goes there. It will make you much more comfortable with your student going away to a big school in a big city.
  • not to be surprised if you don’t see much of them the first time they come home.
  • that his or her college freshman is scared.
  • what options are available for financial aid. Do some research and help your student decide on what’s best for them. Don’t assume they will handle it themselves because in the end, they need your help.
  • that their kids still need their love and concern, but the way we express it might need to change.
  • their child’s roommates, campus friends, and class schedule if possible. Not for snooping, but for better understanding of your child’s world.
  • to offer to take friends/roommates for coffee or pizza when you visit. It will be a future conversation starter.
  • to be flexible. This means an urgent mid-day call about where to find shoelaces or some such item, and then a last minute cancellation on dinner when he or she is home to visit. It gets better. Slowly.

Every parent should have:

  • Internet at their disposal which connects them to the U of M.
  • enough money saved for emergencies that they didn’t anticipate.
  • access to their student’s bank accounts and credit card account. Set up the account before your drop them off. There will be less inclination for them to get a credit card on their own. Plus…when the student travels and needs assistance, you can easily transfer money, replace lost cards, etc. if needed.
  • the time to listen to your student. Let them use you as a sounding board. Many times they have concerns or problems about roommates and need to talk to someone to vent to without hurting a roommate’s feelings. Just getting to talk about it makes them come up with their own solution, and sometimes the problem isn’t really a problem—they just need to hear themselves talk about it.
  • a good cell phone plan and directions to the nearest UPS drop off site.
  • email, and use it often.
  • their student set up a checking account before they leave for college, or help them set up and learn to use an account as soon as they arrive at school.
  • a ticket for at least one Gopher game the first year. Take your student and his/her friends all out for lunch.
  • plans to go to Parent’s Weekend. Meet some of their teachers. Attend church with your student and friends, and take them out for lunch afterwards.
  • the email address to sign up for the parent email listserv to receive information, because your student might not tell you anything.
  • open communication with your student. Ask questions about their classes and decisions they have made. Let them know you’re there if they need you.
  • a contingency plan in place for reaching their students in an emergency, and if they are out of state, a plan to get them home. In our post 9-11 world it is a good discussion to have. It might also be important in an emergency. You may want to have a phone number to reach the roommates parents, phone for an on-campus job, etc.

Every parent should be:

  • happy that their child is furthering his or her education.
  • patient, Patient, PATIENT.
  • expecting that there will be setbacks—mistakes in your view, but try to capture everything in the best light and keep encouraging them. That’s the hard part. Try “Good news, I’m proud of you.” “Wonderful, I know that you were prepared for that exam.”
  • able to recognize that part of why we send our sons and daughters to college is for them to grow.
  • able to think back to your college days. What do you remember the most!
  • quiet! It’s hard to let go until they ask for help. By asking open-ended questions we can remain involved in their lives but not dictatorial and directional. If we don’t do this, it’s hard for growth to occur, and growth is one of our principal objectives.
  • willing to listen but slow to react.
  • supportive, listening, non-judgmental, and try not to map out their student's career.
  • in constant touch the first year with letters, goodies, little gifts, money, and a few phone calls.
  • sure to send “finals” goody packages.
  • willing to let go once their student goes to college. It's really quite a freeing feeling once you do.
  • prepared to let them determine their own future.