It's been over a month since school has started, and things are starting to kick into full gear in your student's life. The first few weeks have been filled with a series of adjustments ranging from learning to cope with roommates to dragging themselves out of bed in time for 8 a.m. classes.
The college experience brings with it an exciting array of freedoms and perhaps surprising responsibilities that your student may not have anticipated. Students must choose how to get involved on campus, how much time to devote to studying and how to become integrated in the social aspect of college life. These decisions may seem overwhelming at first, and it is not surprising that many students may be struggling with transitioning into normal routines.
Families too, have their own struggles which may include how and when to communicate with their student and how to find the right ways to support their student through these transitions. Not to mention that families may be adjusting to their student "leaving the nest" and becoming more independent. Keeping this in mind, we have compiled a few suggestions to consider as you face some of these issues.
Adjusting Tips for Families
Keep in Touch, But Not Too Much
- Student's frequency of communication will change as they adjust to their busy schedules. Their newfound independence may lead them to update you on their life less frequently than you'd like. Have a talk with your student about an agreed upon method (i.e. email, text, phone) and what you both consider to be an appropriate interval of communication. Freshmen in particular may perceive persistent communication as invasive and "uncool" to their newfound lifestyle, but they still desire the security of knowing you are there to support them. Don't take their lack of communication as a sign that they don't miss you; they are attempting to find their new path of independence and "let go" of their old lifestyle just as you are.
Support Your Student
- Provide encouragement and reassurance. Sometimes students may call just to vent about some of their frustrations or to boast about their accomplishments. Other times they may have nothing to say at all. Listening and avoiding "I have the right to know" tinged questions will pave the path for students to gradually open up about their new life.
- Sending care packages, letters or other items in the mail reminds students of your support and provides non-evasive ways to connect with your student. Many students regard goodies in the mail as envious treasure!
- Expect change. It is likely that in the face of life changes, your student may change aspects of themselves as well. Coping with these changes means having faith in your student's ability to make their own decisions. It is inevitable that students will make some mistakes. While its not always easy, we all make mistakes as a part of growing up.
- Financial Support: Talk to your student and set some monetary guidelines. College is new and exciting, but it shouldn't cost you a fortune on top of tuition. You may want to discuss the possibility of your student having a part-time, on-campus job as a way to offset some of the living expenses associated with college. Studies have shown that students who work 15 hours a week or less actually tend to have higher grades than those who don't work at all.
Connect with Other Mason Families
- This is a transitionary time for you as well. Connecting with other families who are going through similar transitions gives you an outlet for expressing frustrations and triumphs that you and your student may be experiencing. You may find other Mason families through campus events such as Family Weekend, university sponsored organizations or social networking sites such as our George Mason Family Association Facebook page or this web site, a social network for George Mason parents.
- Becoming involved with campus programs and activities helps parents continue to feel like an integrated part of their student's life in a unique and generous way. Volunteer opportunities such as Orientation Family Volunteer, Admissions Office Parent Recruiter and involvement in our Family Association are just a few examples. Our website includes additional volunteer activities.
Other Resources for Parents
There are also other resources for both George Mason families as well as college families in general. You can stay informed about all the events, activities and happenings on our campus through our e-newsletter, the Mason Family Flash, our George Mason Family Association Facebook page and by checking out our website. And of course, the Office of Orientation and Family Programs and Services has been established to provide resources for our Mason families as we promote services, events and communication efforts to support you!
A list of other tips and resources can be found at our website.
Have other ideas? We want to hear from you! We are always looking for ways to inform and involve our Mason families in any way we can. If you have an idea for an event or article you'd like to see then we'd love to hear from you! Please email email@example.com with your suggestions. Thank you for all that you do to support our Mason students!
Graduate Assistant, Family Programs and Services
Orientation and Family Programs and Services