How to Help as a Parent

Transition is hard and if you’re the parent of a first year student, you are currently witnessing this first-hand. Your student has started a new chapter of their life. Attending college for the first time can be a turning point in your student’s life. This is when your student will grow the most. But as a parent, when you’ve been there at the right moment and the right time to help solve the problem, provide the answer and maybe even save the day. How do you help your student now? What do you say to help them get through and acclimate to this new chapter of their life?

This may be your child’s first time living on their own. Prepare yourself for the phone calls asking how to do laundry, how to manage a credit card, or what to do if the car has a flat tire. Even if they know how to do some or all of these things, your student may still call you each time something goes wrong. When they have a question. Or sometimes just because they are missing home. Your student is not only obtaining a higher education but they are faced with new challenges, new obstacles. For some it may be learning new life skills, such as how to manage their money and others it may be pushing beyond their comfort zone to make new friends. This is all part of the transition most of us experience. Reassure your student they are not alone and that many of their peers are experiencing very similar challenges, even if they insist they are the only one. Remind them that NC State has a number of resources that can help.

Here are a few:

  • If your student is feeling isolated or lonely have them look into joining a Student Organization.
  • Roommate issues? Housing questions? Have them talk to their Resident Advisor (RA) or visit Community Standards.
  • Is your student struggling in the classroom?  Or maybe they just need to brush up on good study habits, the Tutorial Center is the place to go.
  • And when in doubt, the Counseling Center can help with just about any issue big or small, to help your student during their transition.

Note that all of these are useful and available to students for the duration of time your student is at NC State. 

College may also be a time when your student receives their first disappointing grade. They may not do as well as they had wanted on a test or a paper and not know how to handle not getting the best grade in the class. College is a little (okay, a lot) more challenging and students are not expected to do well on every assignment or in every class. Expectations are high and no one wants to disappoint. Many college students are afraid of disappointing their parents, of failing where they never have before. In these instances the best thing a parent can do is help to alleviate that pressure. Remind your student that it is okay and not everything comes easy for everyone. College is supposed to be hard and sometimes a hard-earned C teaches more than an easy A.

Remind your student that college is an opportunity to learn how to balance. How to balance school, studying, work, internships, volunteering, student organizations, and a social life. Putting it altogether is a skill your student will learn over time. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, although most of us wish it would. For some this involves having a planner, writing priority lists or making use of a google calendar. However your student handles it, balance is key. As a parent you have learned how to balance, share what you have learned and your experiences with your student. Encourage your student to go beyond their four walls and for every time you ask about a class, ask about a new experience outside of the classroom. Have they met someone new? Signed up for an intramural? Gone to the dining hall? Challenge them to talk to someone new. Maybe not come home for a weekend or even make yourself busy so that they can identify ways to do the same.

As a student, we expect our parents to have all the right answers, but its okay if you don’t. This is really our chance to learn and grow. The best thing a parent can do for their student is cheer them on, be a voice of reason and reassure us that in the end it will all work out.

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