Special Tips to Ease the Transition
Your student is about to begin an experience that is both exciting and frightening
period of joy, discovery, and challenges. They will emerge from this period much
different than when they entered – and you are traveling it with them. You will
experience happiness and defeat just as they will – possibly with as much satisfaction and
joy. Some hints may help both you and your student prepare for what lies ahead.
The power of association can be dangerous. A student once expressed, "The idea of
homesick didn't even occur to me what with all the new things that were going on until
my mom called one of the first weekends and asked, 'Are you homesick?' Then it hit
The first few weeks of school are filled with new activities. The challenge of adjusting to
new situations takes much of a new student's time and concentration, so unless they are
reminded of it often (perhaps by a well-meaning parent), they probably will be able to
escape the loneliness and frustration of homesickness. At some point later in the
semester, however, when life at the university seems less inviting, they may experience
it. This is a natural part of the adjustment to university life and life away from the
comforts of home. Even if they do not tell you during those first few weeks, they do miss
Although most freshmen are still anxious for family ties and the security those ties
they typically are eager to experience all the away-from-home independence they can in
the first weeks. This surge of independence may be misinterpreted by sensitive parents as
rejection, but most freshmen (even though 99 percent will not admit it) would give
anything for some news of home and family, however mundane it may seem.
College freshmen are "cool" (or so they hope) and may have a tendency to resent
interference with their newfound lifestyle, all the while still desiring the security of
knowing that someone is interested in them.
Parental curiosity can be overbearing, alienating or relief-giving, depending on how
questions are asked. "I have a right to know" questions should be avoided. However,
genuine inquiries and other "between friends" communication and discussion will do
much to further the parent-freshman relationship.
The University and the experiences associated with it can effect changes in social
personal behavior and academic, vocational and other choices. The previous wallflower
may become a campus sweetheart, a pre-med student may discover that biology is not her
thing after all, or a high school radical may become a college conservative.
You cannot stop change – you may not even understand it – but it is within your power
(and your son's or daughter's advantage) to accept it. Remember that your freshman will
be basically the same person that you sent away to school, aside from such changes in
interests and shifts in personality. By the same token, do not expect too much too soon.
Maturation is not an instantaneous or overnight process and you might well discover your
son or daughter's returning home with some of the habits and hang-ups, however
unsophisticated, that you thought he or she would have outgrown. Be patient.
Parenting can be a thankless job, especially during the college years. It is a lot
and only a little receiving. Often, when troubles become too much for a freshman to
handle (a flunked test, an ended friendship and a shrunk t-shirt all in one day), the only
place to turn, write or dial is home. Unfortunately, since these are the times that the urge
to communicate is felt most strongly, you may not hear about the A paper, the new
romance or the changed major.
Be patient with those nothing-is-going-right-I-hate-this-place phone calls or letters. You
are providing a real service with your sympathetic ear. Granted, it is a service that may
make you feel lousy, but it works wonders for a frustrated student.
Occasional visits by parents (especially when accompanied by shopping sprees, dinners
out, etc.) are another part of first-year events that freshmen are reluctant to admit liking
but appreciate greatly. Pretended disdain of such visits can be another part of the first
year adjustment. Visits give students a chance to introduce some of the most important
people in both of their worlds (home and school) to each other. Additionally, it is a way
for parents to become familiar (and more understanding of) their son's or daughter's new
activities, commitments, and friends.
Spur of the moment "surprises" are usually not appreciated. (Pre-emption of a planned
weekend of studying or other activities can have disastrous results.) Giving some notice
may even afford you that rare sight of a clean room.
The freshman year (and those that follow) can be full of indecision, insecurities,
disappointments and, most of all, mistakes. They are also full of discovery, inspiration,
good times and great people. Often, however, it is not the good that stands out, except in
It takes awhile (and the help of some good friends) for freshmen to realize that previous
perceptions of what the university is all about were inaccurate. It also takes a while to
accept that being unhappy, afraid or confused, disliking certain people and making
mistakes (in other words, accepting oneself) are all part of the experience, all part of
growing up. It sometimes takes a little longer for parents to accept.
Parents who believe that college students always get good grades, know what they want
to major in, have activity-packed weekends, are surrounded by thousands of close
friends, and lead carefree, worry-free lives are mistaken. So are parents who think
college-educated means mistake-proof. Parents who perpetuate and insist upon the "best years" stereotype are working against a son's or daughter's already difficult self development.
Those who understand and accept the highs and lows are providing support
and encouragement when it is needed most.
Finding oneself is difficult enough without feeling that the people whose opinions
respect most are second-guessing you.
One of the most important things a parent can write to a daughter or son might go
something like, "I love you and want all the things that make you happiest. You, not I,
are the one who is in the best position to know what those things are."
If your first questions are always about dates, social activities, or the score of
recent game rather than about books, ideas, classroom discussions, and co-curricular
activities (out-of-class lectures, seminars, concerts, exhibits, intramural activities, etc.),
you may be sending the wrong signal about what is really important at the university.
Having a student at UD provides a wonderful opportunity to learn something about a new
book and the latest views on a topic of mutual interest. We urge you to ask about these
things first so that you find the conversation a rewarding experience and so that your son
or daughter sees that the demanding work of the university is what matters to you as well.
Being a good listener and giving tips for dealing with problematic situations is a
way for parents to help their students. Immediately calling a professor or a roommate on
behalf of your student is not. Listen, offer advice, and wait to hear back from them about
how they have handled the problem and what the outcome was. If you don't hear back
immediately, that means that they probably have dealt with the situation satisfactorily on
their own with your great advice. If you are asked again about the same situation, listen
and offer advice again. Intervene only when you feel that the situation has reached a point
where professional consultation with someone on the faculty or staff is necessary.
Encourage your student, however, to work through the problem on his/her own if at all