Tips for Parenting through the University Years

Every family is unique as is each individual within it. Everyone is likely to have their own experience of this life passage, with their own particular challenges, joys, expectations, and concerns. However, there are a number of ways you may help to nurture your relationship with your university student:

  • Set reasonable expectations about academics: Your student may have been a super-academic achiever in high school, but may not get straight-A’s in university. Your expectations continue to influence the expectations your student sets for himself. Help them to accept that doing the best they can is terrific, even if they do not make the Dean’s list. If they truly do need academic assistance, encourage them to seek it out.
  • Be a good listener: When problems arise at school – which they inevitably will do – listen carefully to what your student says. Support them in exploring options and finding their own solutions, without taking it upon yourself to solve the problems for them. Remind them about the resources that are available to them at school (explore the following Campus Resources), and encourage them to seek those out for further assistance.
  • Be emotionally supportive: Be positive and encouraging, but don’t push them to follow a particular course of action, or pressure them about grades or career choices. You can be clear in expressing your own opinions, but trying to impose them on your student is likely to create unproductive conflict rather than positive changes.
  • Stay in touch: It can be tricky to walk the line between maintaining connection with your student and giving them the space they need at this age. Email, letters, care packages, and phone calls from home can help fight homesickness. Express interest in your student’s experiences at school, and ask them about their classes, activities, and friends. If your budget allows, a little spending money, or a gift card in a small amount from a local store, can help your student get a special meal off-campus or pick up a small specialty item to brighten up their day. Ask them what they need from you: When you are not sure what to do, it’s okay to ask your child what they feel they need from you at that moment. They may want you to just listen while they “vent” about something, without having you respond or be “helpful”. Perhaps they need sympathy, a hug, a visit, a phone call, or some distance. Get the support you need: This can be a confusing time, and may even sometimes feel like a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. One day your child may reach out for your support, the next day reject any offer of help. You may find yourself having many different feelings, such as relief when your child leaves home for college, anxiety about things they are experiencing, sadness and loss about being separated from them, etc. These are all natural reactions, and won’t last forever. Meanwhile, stay in touch with your own supportive friends and relatives. Talk with other parents who have been, or who are now going through, the same thing. Take good care of yourself, including doing things you enjoy, getting adequate rest and nutrition, exercising, and using healthy coping skills to manage stress.

Popular Books:

  • Don’t Tell Me What To Do: Just Send Money, by Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller, (2000).

Campus Resources:

McMaster phone – (905) 525-9140

  • Student Wellness Centre – Ext.27700
  • Dean of Students – Ext.27455
  • Residence Life – Ext.23200
  • Student Accessibility Services – Ext.28652
  • Chaplaincy Office – Ext.24207
  • Student Success Centre Ext.24254
  • Security – Ext.88 or (905) 522-4135

Community Resources:

Adapted from website at Tufts University