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First-Year Parents

Welcome to the Hatter family!

As the parent of an incoming or current first-year student, you are likely experiencing many moments of both joy and anxiety. Having your student leave home, often for the first time, initiates a time of great transition, which is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety and separation. Though your role may be about to change, your work as a parent is far from done. While your student must ultimately be left to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes, you're still needed. Your ability to provide guidance and support during this period of great change is vital for your student's success.

These transitions often require a large adjustment by all members of the family. In order to be as prepared as possible, we recommend having discussions prior to the start of the school year about values, goals and behavioral expectations and also keeping the lines of communication open throughout the undergraduate years. Being as explicit and open as possible during this time should help alleviate misunderstandings and allow for positive growth and change.

Making the Transition

The transition from high school to college can be a very difficult process for both students and parents. Students are adapting to a new environment, making new friends, handling the rigors of academic life -- and all without the safety net of on-site parental support. Meanwhile, parents are often worrying about how their students are handling the transition and seeking ways they can continue to support their students from afar. The most beneficial ways to support your student involve facilitating self-determination -- the ability to identify and understand one's needs, interests, strengths, limitations and values.

Self-determination is a critical skill for success in higher education, because self-determined students: capitalize on their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses; are proactive and experience less stress; are persistent and focused on goals; use support systems to creatively problem solve. Furthermore, all of the elements of self-determination are essential skills for one to achieve any goal. Thus, college students must believe that they can be successful, be able to make logical decisions, act independently, and evaluate and adjust their actions as necessary to meet their goals and objectives.

Here are ways you can encourage self-determination in your student:

  1. Listen. Be there to provide support and consultation, but give your student the space to figure it out on their own. Resist the urge to "take over."
  2. Encourage them to make connections. Direct your student to talk with the Academic Success Center, their professors, their academic advisor and other individuals who can assist them.
  3. Don't be afraid of mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Let your student learn from these experiences.
  4. It's a different world. Students live in a different world than we did at their age. They need to set their own goals and take ownership of their education.
  5. Work Together. The Academic Success Center welcomes parents' involvement. Recent studies suggest that active parental support fosters the development of self-determination. However:
    • Be aware that, because of Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), post-secondary professionals can't share information with parents without that student's written permission.
    • Be mindful of "triangulation". Direct and honest communication with your son or daughter is the most effective way to teach them responsibility.
  6. Trust the process. Our role is to guide the students through this developmental process in order to become independent and responsible adults.

Resources

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See the Student Resources and Services portal for more information.

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Care Packages and Letters

Care packages and letters are always welcomed by students. Don't forget to also send your student a Happy Hatter Cake! Each Happy Hatter Cake package comes with a 12-inch round chocolate chip cookie cake, a bouquet of balloons and a personalized message from you! Send a birthday cake or any other season's greeting!

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