By Janice Robinson, Director, Residence Life and Administration
Parents frequently ask how they can support their student while at university. Every family is unique. But we’ve observed some common themes that might help.
Before they leave
In general, parents should be supportive and trusting, encourage independence and provide a safety net. Before they leave for university:
- Familiarize yourself with campus resources and phone numbers.
- Ask your student to share important emails from the university admissions office.
- Check the academic year schedule for significant dates.
- Read your Residence Contract.
Additional tip: Pick up a copy of Don’t Tell Me What To Do, Just Send Money—The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years, by Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller. It offers a clear, current look at issues students and parents will face. If you only have time to read one book as your student starts university, make it this one.
While they’re away
It’s important to email or call. But, don’t wait by your laptop or phone to hear back. Students may want to know more about what’s going on at home and be less inclined to return your call or text and let you know what’s going on with them. Accept that you won’t know every detail of your student’s life. Returning your call or text often will not be their first priority. Show concern about how they’re doing, ask questions, but try not to invade their privacy. Often students want to let you know what is happening at their own pace.
Be prepared for “the phone call.” Often it comes just after midterms or near the end of first term. At that point, work is piling up, marks aren’t what they’d expected, they’re feeling overwhelmed and their coping skills begin to fail. They’re upset and, chances are, they’re going to call you. Don’t panic. Remember that this is normal and, as much as you’d like to alleviate their stress, you cannot (and should not) fix their problems. They will rely on you to reassure them they can successfully work through the challenges.
When they come home
Understand that your student may have difficulties returning home for holidays. For the several months they’ve been concerned about only their daily routine and lived without family rules. When they come home, it’s a transition for everyone.
Stock up on favourite foods for your visiting student and have plenty of laundry detergent on hand. Even though student life might be great, avoid rhapsodizing about university as the best years of one’s life. For students struggling with exams, papers and career worries, your fond memories can be of little comfort.
The academic expectations at UBC are rigorous. It’s normal for students with high marks in high school to get far lower grades at UBC. This may come as a shock to both you and your student. Don’t let him or her get down about it, but encourage them to get help. Students who seek assistance typically get back on track and do just fine.
If you think that a weekend visit would benefit them (or you), the West Coast Suites offers visitor accommodation. You can also buy UCare gift packages, a sure sign of support and concern. You’ve no idea how excited students get when these arrive.