It’s been 2 days since you moved your student into their new house off-campus or into residence at McMaster and you haven’t heard from them. You are so worried about them. Are they doing okay? Are they safe? Do they have money? Are they behaving or getting into trouble? Who is looking after them like you have for the past 18 years? Why haven’t they called home?These are all very common questions and concerns parents have during the first week of sending their son or daughter off to university and it’s natural to be worried. You are experiencing a big change not having your child at home where you can protect them and help make decisions. We spend a lot of time talking to students about the transition they’ll need to make to have a successful first year, but it’s important to talk to parents about their transition as well. We want to support you so you can continue to support your student and be the loving, knowledgeable parent they need.
What is happening at McMaster during the first week?
McMaster Welcome Week begins in late August and is part of the orientation program at McMaster (Mac). It provides opportunities for students to get to know other students, familiarize themselves with the campus and buildings, meet professors and staff from their Faculty Program Office and learn about the many clubs, student organizations and support services available to them. There are activities and events planned that will help students integrate into the university community. They will go on tours showing them where their classes will be and where the library is that they will need most. Students will play fun games with each other and attend social events as they get to know other students in their residence or neighbourhood and their program. They will be introduced to the over 150 clubs on campus and learn about other opportunities to get involved in campus life. They will attend their first set of classes at the end of the week and be introduced to large lecture halls or laboratories that are different from the science room in high school. Visit the Welcome Week website for further details.
And they will be completely overwhelmed and tired by the end of the week as they try to take it all in and comprehend what a big change they are experiencing!! But they will be having fun and learning what it means to be independent.
How will I feel?
It is normal for parents to feel a range of emotions as you send your child off to university. On the one hand, you may be very excited for your daughter or son as you watch them grow and become a young adult, capable of handling the increased responsibilities. But you may also experience a sense of loss and separation, as you have been a significant presence in their life while they lived at home and now you are not included in their daily life in the same way. You may not see or talk to your child every day, even if they continue to live at home and commute to school. There is a shift in the level of control parents have and the way in which you communicate with your student may change. They are growing and becoming an adult and how you relate to them will need to reflect that. Parents will continue to be needed as a source of support for students (financially and emotionally), but the level of support needed may change.
How can I prepare for this transition?
Talk, talk, talk!!! Talk to your student about what they are feeling and the changes they anticipate going through. Share your feelings and fears, too. It can help to talk about specific situations you each think might come up and how they could best be handled. This will give you a chance to discuss what both of you expect of each other and to give your student the confidence to know they are making good decisions when you are not with them. Topics you could cover include: academic expectations, living with a roommate or set of housemates, relationships (with friends or intimate situations), alcohol and drugs, frequency of communication between yourselves. You could also address more practical topics such as how to manage money for the year, how to pay bills and how to do laundry. Another thing students often appreciate help with before they arrive is making special arrangements, ie. special dietary needs can be accommodated by contacting Hospitality Services (email@example.com) or for a student with a known disability, accommodations can be made through Student Accessibility Services.
Who can I contact during the academic year with any concerns I have or to get information?
For a full listing of Student Affairs (Student Services) departments, visit Services for Students where you will find a link to the specific web site of the service you are looking for and familiarize yourself with some of the services available either through Student Affairs or other departments on campus. There are also services offered out of each Faculty Program Office that are listed on the McMaster home page. If you are seeking information about the service on behalf of a student we encourage you to consider having them call for themselves. This is one way to support their growth and independence. In some situations, where information is specific and of a personal nature to a student, we are unable to provide it to anyone else – even a parent or legal guardian – refer to Issues of Confidentiality. If you still feel it necessary to call the university, but are unsure of where to go, you could try one of the three following places:
Student life at McMaster is full of opportunities, activities and interactions, all of which contribute to the development of students as young adults. Students are encouraged to get involved in the clubs, academic networks and social groups which help to connect them to the McMaster community and to develop a stronger sense of belonging in their new environment. This, in turn, has a positive effect on students’ success both academically and socially.
Students must find a balance between their academic and personal commitments in order to achieve their goals. McMaster offers many sources of support and services to help students along this path.
Whether students have academic concerns, need someone to talk to, need to find a job or have health issues, there are many people on campus who are dedicated to assisting your son or daughter. We encourage students to seek out the resources and make the contacts they need which will help them to become more independent and take responsibility for their own lives.
These supports and services include such things as academic skills counseling, peer leadership, career planning and health management. To learn more about what students should expect from campus life, explore Services for Students for services for students that fall under Student Affairs as well as other areas at McMaster.
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. “Frosh 15” is a nick name given to the 15% point drop in grades compared to highshool that is experienced by many students when transitioning to 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 university, 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.
Don’t Tell Me What To Do: Just Send Money, by Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller, (2000).
To become accustomed to your student’s growing independence will require adjustments for you and for your student. Here are some of the many changes taking place for your student during this time of life:
Greater Independence: Students must learn to take care of themselves in important new ways, and they must be increasingly self-reliant while still depending on parents in many ways. Their need for support from family may alternate, seemingly unpredictably, with their need for distance.
Developing Intimacy: Typically, students develop strong ties with peers, important intimate relationships with both friends and romantic partners, and greater self awareness within relationships.
Changing Family Roles: Within the family, students need to re-negotiate important aspects of their relationships, including family roles and boundaries. This last task is often the most difficult for students and their parents to navigate, and can be challenging when dealing with issues such as control and sharing of information.
Intellectual Growth: University is a time of life in which students experience rapid intellectual growth, and explore different ideas, opinions, and ways of thinking. The student in your life may express thoughts and feelings with which you strongly disagree, or their intellectual development may spark related interests in you.
Identity Development: Students at this age are exploring different facets of identity, and may experiment with different styles and behaviours. This is part of developing a sense of themselves as unique individuals with value and importance.
Don’t Tell Me What To Do: Just Send Money, by Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller, (2000).
Most incoming university students have never shared a room or apartment/suite with another person before and this new experience may be challenging. Sometimes things work out really well and roommates become lifelong friends and sometimes they may have very little in common with each other and lead very separate lives. All relationships have high and low points, but the challenge in residential living is learning how to manage and communicate through these ups and downs. As a parent, roommate conflicts may be an entirely new experience as well. Here are five things that you can do to help your son or daughter in the event of a roommate disagreement.
Remain Open Minded
It is important to remember that there are two sides to every story. Support your son or daughter while encouraging them talk to their roommate about what is troubling them. Advise them to address the roommate’s behaviour rather than the individual themselves.
Use Their Roommate Agreement
Each resident student completes a Roommate Agreement at the beginning of the year. They discuss things such as sleeping patterns, noise and cleanliness among other things. Ask your son or daughter what they agreed upon at the beginning of the year.
Learning to live and share an environment with another person can be a challenge. It can take some compromise in order for everyone to feel comfortable. Encourage your son or daughter to be flexible in the discussion in order to reach an agreement that works for everyone.
Refer them to their Community Advisor
The Community Advisor living in your son or daughter’s community is trained in mediation and conflict management and is willing to help. They are students too and can understand some of the challenges that your son or daughter may be facing and will be able to provide strategies to resolve the situation.
Give Them Confidence
It is natural to want to help solve your son or daughter’s issue for them. However in the long run this will not be beneficial. University is an opportunity for students to develop and practice the life skills they will need in their future. Encourage them to try to solve the issue on their own while giving them the support they need.
Your son or daughter has just finished their first year at university and it’s time for them to move home and find a summer job. Well, get ready; things won’t be the same as last summer. A lot has happened in the last eight months to both you and your young adult.
For example, you have no doubt established your own routine and likely enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of having one less person around to be responsible for. If there are other siblings in the home, they, too, have developed routines and have definitely enjoyed the extra space in the house.
As for your young adult, his or her life has been turned upside down and sideways. They are use to being independent and not having to answer to anyone. They have set their own time table, determined their own rules and established new friendships. Yes, things are going to be different this summer!
To ensure your son or daughter’s time home this summer begins on a positive note, it’s a good idea to establish some house rules that everyone can live with. Be sure to address things like:
Household chores: who’s going to be doing the extra laundry, cooking meals, cleaning the bathroom, etc.?
Paying for added expenses: will you expect your son or daughter to contribute some money toward the cost of meals, laundry detergent, phone bills, or can they do some chores in exchange for the added costs to your budget?
Phone/internet time: with all these new friends spread across the country, there is sure to be added pressure on the phone or internet bill. You may want to consider a new long distance plan or an additional computer to alleviate disputes.
Privacy: how will your family deal with the need for privacy? Devise a way to provide privacy when it’s needed. Using a “Do not disturb” sign or relocating to a basement bedroom may be options.
“Coming and going: No matter how old your young adult is, he or she is still “your child.” Help them to understand that you worry when they’re out with people you don’t really know or fail to come home when they say they would. Encourage them to keep you informed without infringing on their privacy and moralizing about their social life.
Overnight guests: What will be allowed in your home?
Whatever arrangements you develop, ensure everyone understands the parameters and can live with them. Flexibility and respect from all parties is a key to success. Patience and understanding are a must.
If your student is one whose parents have not attended any post-secondary education level courses (college or university), then your student is considered a First Gen! Research shows that First Generation students often have unique needs and challenges. Our program provides support to assist them with a successful transition to university academics and campus life, as well as networking opportunities to build a strong peer support system on which to rely.
The only way we know if your student is a First Generation student and eligible for the following programs, is if he/she self-identifies. There are several avenues from which to do so, but we strongly encourage students to respond to the First Generation self-identification questions on Mosaic when they log into their student information account. This is an important step toward accessing additional support at McMaster.
Check out the Student Success Centre’s Academic Skills Section for various workshops held throughout the year to hone academic skills.
Students can sign up to meet with one of our Peer Mentors either one-on-one or in a group. Peer Mentors are successful upper year students who have been trained to provide support to their peers. They are happy to provide peer guidance and support while referring to the appropriate resource when needed. The Student Success Centre provides Peer Mentoring to all students; those in Social Sciences are also eligible for Peer Mentoring specially designed by the Faculty.
Explore the many options available to enhance their university experience.
Back to school is upon us again! But this time, instead of backpacks and binders being the number one concern, you have much more to think about with your child entering university; even more so if your son or daughter is going to be living off-campus. At the Off-Campus Resource Centre (OCRC) we have all the resources you need to prepare your child for a successful off-campus living experience in Hamilton.
The OCRC office is located in the Student Centre basement in room B112. Along with our online student rental listings our staff also offers help with any lease or general housing issues that may arise throughout the year. While you’re on the website, be sure to check out the new series of educational videos that we’ve created to help answer many typical student questions – about leases, the garbage and recycling system in Hamilton, as well as what it’s like coming here as an international student.