Parents frequently ask, “what can I do to support my student?” or “what things should we be prepared for?” While every family is unique, we’ve observed some common themes over several years of living and working with new university students.
Before they leave for university
Parents can be supportive and trusting, encourage independence, and provide a safety net. Here are some recommendations:
- Familiarize yourself with campus resources and phone numbers.
- Ask your student to share important emails from the university admissions office.
- Check UBC Student Services’ dates and deadlines page for significant dates.
- Read your student’s residence contract.
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
While it’s important to connect regularly, 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
Remember that returning your call or text often will not be their first priority.
Show care and concern about their lives
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.
But 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.
Consider sending a care package
You can also purchase UCare gift packages—a sure sign of care, concern and support.
If you think that a weekend visit would benefit them (or you), UBC Conferences and Accommodation offers hotel rooms and suites right here on campus.
When they visit home
Understand that your student may have difficulties returning home for holidays after experiencing life on their own. For several months they’ve been concerned with only their daily routine—not the family’s. Sometimes they come home with a new outlook and new expectations for family members. It’s a transitional time for everyone.
Ways to support the transition
Stock up on favourite foods for your visiting student—and have plenty of laundry detergent on hand! Even though student life might be great, be careful about romanticizing about university life as the best years of one’s life. For a student who may be struggling with exams, papers and career worries, this may not provide the intended comfort or reassurance.