For Parents

The relationship between parent and child experiences considerable change when the child begins college.  It is a time of transition that is challenging to both parents and child.  There are numerous concerns that parents have when they send their daughter or son off to college.  Most students entering college for the first time are faced with several important developmental challenges separate from those posed by their academic coursework.  Some of these challenges include:  learning to live with others, making decisions regarding self-regulation (e.g. eating, sleeping, studying, whether or not to drink, etc.), and making some beginning decisions about what they are going to do for the rest of their life (selecting a major or career option).  Below are some useful tips to consider when your child leaves for college.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.  FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."  Therefore, we are unable to provide parents with information on student grades, health and finances – which may seem strange if the parents, are paying the bills.  Our direct contact will always be with students.  It is between you and your child to maintain open communication to discuss important matters.

What can a parent do to help their son or daughter adjust to the University? Here are a few tips that may help.

Demonstrate support through listening
Although students will interact daily with faculty, advisors, friends and acquaintances, when facing situations that are difficult, do not be surprised if they turn to you for support and encouragement. When, and if this happens, it is important to remember that one of the most effective tools you have is your ability to listen carefully to what they are saying.

Non-judgmental listening is one of the most important interventions a parent can make. When listening, be non-judgmental and take care to avoid rushing in with speedy solutions. Instead, after you're convinced you understand their situation; ask them what solutions they have considered. You may be surprised to discover that they are much closer to resolving the matter than you may have realized.

Stay informed
Staying informed about what is happening on campus can be a rewarding experience for parents and at the same time make them important resources. Knowing that mid-term examinations are about to begin or that an important exam will be returned in the near future, for example, can help parents understand why students may be acting nervous or upset. There are many resources on campus that can assist you in this regard including the University's on-line campus calendar and numerous other sites that may be found on the main Radford University home page.

Use e-mail to talk and stay in touch
Though most first-year students are eager to experience their autonomy and become completely immersed in their college experience, they also rely on the security of family relationships.  Getting news from you, other family members and old friends serves to tell them that they are still an important part of the family and community from which they come. E-mail allows you to communicate with your child at one another’s convenience. Just do not expect a reply to every e-mail you send.

Expect change
Most college students change considerably in their first few years in college. The pace of change may vary from rapid change that can be observed on the first visit home or a more measured slowly over an entire college career. Regardless of the form it takes for your son or daughter, it is inevitable. It may be reflected in preferences for clothing, changes in academic major, or assertive new positions taken on political and social issues. Strong preferences on one visit home may be replaced by equally strong, but very different preferences the next visit.  In the life of a college student, these changes are normal. Although it may be difficult at times, showing patience throughout the process may have a unexpectedly positive affect on your long-term relationship with him or her. While your student is going through changes at school, it can be difficult for them to accept changes in their home life.

Don't be alarmed when they panic
It is not unusual to receive a late night phone call from a college student in a state of panic. The subject and circumstances may vary widely from the discovery they are struggling doing college level work, to the conclusion they do not feel they are fitting in socially. At these times it is particularly important to remember that once they have expressed all their fears and anxieties, they will feel better. You may not, but they will. Being especially encouraging and supportive at these times will help them see that their problem may be more manageable than they initially believed.

Encourage them to use academic resources
University professionals are located at every step of a student's life to help with issues that interfere with their academic and personal development. Those same services can be accessed by parents and family members for consultation about how to deal with special problems that may concern your son or daughter.

Campus visits – do not make surprise visits
Although some students may be reluctant to admit it, most appreciate visits from home, especially if they include dining out and/or shopping for a few necessities. Providing parents with a tour around the campus can be an important way for many students to bring two of their important worlds together. Whereas many may enjoy drop-in visits, most prefer visits that are planned.  Remember: planned visits do not guarantee that you will find neat rooms!

Trust them
The college experience represents the first opportunity for most students to try out newly-discovered independence. Because many situations are new to first-year students, expect them to make a few mistakes. When they do, it is important to keep in mind that few of the mistakes they make will be irrevocable or disastrous. And, many of them will be surprisingly similar to the mistakes made by most other college students. One thing is certain, however, your son or daughter will learn from the mistakes he or she makes and will be much more skilled and confident in dealing with similar situations in the future.

Have another discussion about alcohol and drugs
Radford University has strict policies about underage consumption of alcohol and drug use on campus.  Although this information is made available to all students, many knowingly violate this policy.  Students must honor all campus policies that uphold state and federal laws. The RU Aware Program administers the Alcohol and other Drug policy violators intervention program.  The coordinator of the program is responsible for tracking the students, providing information, referral, and support to students. The Office of Substance Abuse and Sexual Assault Education is dedicated to increasing knowledge and awareness of substance abuse, sexual assault, and other student health issues as well as decreasing the negative consequences associated with high risk alcohol & other drug use and sexual assault.

Talk about credit cards and finances
It is encouraged that parents have an open discussion about finances prior to coming to school.  Will the student have a credit card?  Should a local checking account be opened?  Should parents be a co-signer and receive copies of bank statements?  Bankers flood students with credit card offers.  Help your student make informed decisions on all banking and credit card needs.

Discuss with your student campus safety and emergency preparedness
Beginning this fall, Radford University is providing an alert notification service to students, faculty and staff. The new alert system enables university officials to blast text messages, emails and phone messages to as many as 12,000 subscribers.

The safety of the Radford University campus is a high priority to all of us. Since the April 16 tragedy at Virginia Tech, a variety of staff, students and faculty have been evaluating our emergency-response plans and protocols. The University has an Emergency Response Plan that is reviewed periodically and can be activated quickly in a crisis. Specific RU staff are trained and ready to respond to emergencies.

An alert notification system has been installed as part of a series of initiatives to enhance security and emergency communications on campus.

Enjoy your freedom
It is normal and natural for you to miss your child.  You have spent many years raising your daughter or son and being an important influence in their life.  Now it is their time to make decisions for themselves and continue to grow as an individual.  The university has many staff members to assist in the transition process.  It is your time to sit back, relax and enjoy your child and all the changes and growth opportunities that she/he will experience.  Give yourself the gift of time and use it to pursue your own hobbies and interests.