Parents and Families

A Michigan student with her family

This month we want to hear from you. Ann Arbor has had very cold and snowy winters in recent years. Are you looking forward to winter weather? What tips can you share with parents from warm and sunny climates? If you were facing your very first Michigan winter, how would you prepare yourself and your student?

Share your thoughts here.

We’ll share your responses in a future newsletter for the benefit of other U-M families!

Last time we asked – Deep down, a lot of parents just want their kids to be happy and get good grades. So what can you do when they’re unhappy? And how do you help them handle the normal college experience of occasional failures and academic self-doubt? What advice do you have for other parents who might be facing this challenge?

First off, I think you’re incredibly lucky if your student is actually talking to you about this! It’s so hard for most kids to not meet a parent’s expectations. I know whenever my daughter starts a conversation with “I hope you’re not disappointed in me” that it’s time for me to listen and be grateful that she’s willing to share what she’s going through.

I’ve learned to not provide a quick opinion or offer to research, help, or resolve it too fast. And don’t ask obvious questions like ‘Have you talked to your academic advisor?’ If your student is at Michigan they’re bright. Instead, really listen and tell them that you trust them to make the best decision. They will learn to own their decisions if you let them be.

Is your kid getting help? Do they know the resources? I think some very smarts kids never needed academic help before UM. I tell my two daughters all that time that it is normal to need help. [Academic Support Services]

My husband and I listen, and affirm that life and classes are hard. Even we don’t always succeed ourselves as professional adults. We tell him we trust that he's doing the right thing – starting with talking to us about what he's going through!

All I want to do is make him feel better, but I remind myself that I don’t have to have the answers and this may not even be the time for answers. They need to vent and giving answers can be unhelpful. Validate what they’re saying, don’t say -"it’s probably not that bad, just hang in there, everyone’s dealing with this.” Maybe that’s all true, but I can tell you from experience it doesn’t work [to say those things] to my kid!

When she’s ready, I might try to help her figure out what she can do to address the situation. Whether that’s the feelings she’s dealing with (does she want to talk to friends? to Counseling Services? Someone else she can vent with?) And it might also mean academic contacts like her GSI,  instructor, maybe  office hours. There are a ton of resources at UM.

College is one of the places our kids can practice and develop grit, growth, and resilience. They get all caught up when they fail an exam because it seems like the end of the world. As a teacher and a dad, I try to remind them that there’s a big difference between failing a class and being a failure.

I know that more pressure to succeed does not help. They are feeling enough stress on their own without me adding to it! Letting her learn from her mistakes is my job, not hovering and trying to prevent her from making any. It’s hard, but it’s how I show I trust her.

To help Student Life continue making a difference in students' lives, please consider making a gift.