As your college student transitions to a new life on campus, parent programs are there to help you—and your student—adjust to this significant change. These programs exist to answer your questions and provide support as you adjust to your student’s transition away from life at home. While your role is changing, your main job as your student’s support system remains just as important.
Parent programs provide critical information parents need when their child goes away to school. They explain what’s happening on campus, the types of campus activities your child might choose to involve themselves with, and where to direct your child for resources on campus if they should need help. These programs also provide resources and ways to connect with other parents experiencing the same period of transition, to help you build a support system.
School-to-parent communications have expanded over recent years, with many types of communications, news, and updates for parents being moved online and away from paper. In-person parent and family experiences have also changed to include more programs for families and parents at new student orientation, family weekends, and other events.
The main objective of parent programs is to serve as the main resource for information—as well as to provide ample learning experiences about letting go of their child, allowing them to make their own decisions. The goal of many programs is to help parents empower their student to make their own choices, to schedule their own meetings, and to learn how to navigate the challenges of life on their own—without Mom and Dad’s help.
Many colleges and universities have a parent or family website that lists or links to resources and information for parents. These sites list important dates, safety contact information, counseling services, campus police and security, and important addresses. This can serve as a directory for you—but also as critical information. If your child should ask you for help, you can direct them to it on campus.
Another great resource for information is the parent orientation event held at your student’s institution. This is different than the new-student orientation your child attended, and most likely takes place at the same time as their event. This program for parents is the help many of them need to adjust to letting their student independently make choices and help them learn from their decisions. You’ll also learn about the campus, health services, safety resources, and residence halls. Attending orientation is important, because it is the first step to building a relationship with the administration at your student’s school.
Additionally, you can often find a parent calendar that lists the important dates to track your student’s experience at school. The calendar will have dates of exams, breaks, and other days they and you should know. It will also include important contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, and websites for places where your student can access information or resources. The calendar is an important resource, as it serves as a guide to your student’s campus life, connecting you to them as they transition through their year away, letting your track their milestones and check in with them on their progress.
It’s also wise to make a note of the general contact email addresses and phone numbers where you can direct your questions, as it’s sometimes difficult to locate the individual departmental contact for each program your child is involved with during the year.
Signing up for the school newsletter that’s designed for parents and families is a good idea. This regular form of communications explains everything parents need to know about campus life, and provides all kinds of news and updates about the school—and ways for parents to get involved during the year at pre-scheduled events. The primary objective isn’t to bog you down with a lot of information, but to help you know how to best help your student manage their own decisions during their campus life.
Social media is another way to stay in the loop and engage with your student’s school. Facebook, Instagram, and the like are great places to learn more about athletic programs, campus life, alumni events, and fundraising initiatives that let you get involved. It is also a valuable means of connection with other parents through designated social media groups.
A lot of schools and colleges have parent and family organizations that let you build engagement with the institution and other parents. This gives you a critical sense of involvement in your student’s life away from home by drawing you into the larger life on campus. This is where you might serve on an advisory board or as a parent advocate for important campus issues.
Large annual events like parent or family weekends let you come to campus and celebrate your child’s achievements and their experiences each year. The purpose of these events is to engage you and connect you with campus life through athletic events, lectures, performances, special events, and open houses. Each department usually collaborates to include parent programming in their annual events. These events help you learn how to transition into your new life as the parent of a college student while still giving you access to important parts of their new life.
Parental involvement has been the topic of recent studies that show the best way for parents to be involved is to avoid being “helicopter parents.” Rather than hanging around every second, it’s more important to show interest in your child’s life at school by gaining information about their campus existence. Today, college students tend to be closer to their parents than students of previous generations, with parent programs serving to balance the relationship between the parent, student, and institution.