While in college, your student will undoubtedly be exposed to new people, ideas, and experiences. Navigating these situations can be challenging, and parents may wonder how to best support them in this new environment.
We believe one of the best ways to facilitate your student’s learning outside of class is to regularly talk about college life. Although parents may worry about being less relevant in the changing landscape of their students’ lives, they still provide critical support that empowers students to make healthy decisions, explore their identity, and use all aspects of college life as rich learning opportunities.
Some suggestions for facilitating open conversations:
- Consider leading with questions. If your student is discussing a roommate, you might ask “How have your life experiences been similar to (or different from) each other?” or “What have you learned about each other?”
- Keep asking! Ask questions, then, just listen. Sometimes students simply need a trusted adult to hear them as they explore feelings and issues. You could try: “tell me more” or “how did that make you feel?”
- Help your student to view differences as learning opportunities. Your student will inevitably meet people from unfamiliar cultures and with different belief systems. While exciting, this may also create some dissonance. Help them suspend judgment and see this as an excellent chance to learn from others.
- Help your student make meaning out of their experiences. Lessons they learn from the classroom to their friendships can be transferred to other areas of life. For example, if your student shows an affinity for an assignment about environmental sustainability, you might help them explore how to apply that insight to their work in student organizations or other life choices.
- Be transparent about your own experiences. Your student might find it comforting and useful to hear about it if you experienced something similar. Share your decision-making process, the results, and how it worked out for you.
- Finally, you might have an opportunity to remind students that while mutual respect does not require agreement, it is the expectation of the University that differences of perspective will be treated with sensitivity, and that all students and community members will be safe and welcome. Your students can explore resources like:
- Inclusive Language encourages the campus community to consider the impact of their word choices.
- Expect Respect supports a campus climate in which all persons are treated with civility.
- Change it Up! develops students’ skills and confidence to intervene in situations that negatively affect campus climate (including harmful language, behavior, and attitudes).
- Relationship Remix gets students talking about relationships, sex, and decision making while they reflect upon personal values, discuss healthy relationships, and practice skills related to consent.
Whatever comes up for your students, enjoy these special conversations at this singular and exciting time of your lives!
To help Student Life continue making a difference in students’ lives, please consider making a gift.