What Can Parents Expect?

Parents, you and your daughter or son have reached yet another milestone. There have been many milestones in the past and many more to come-- choosing and attending JMU will be two of those.

The transition from high school senior to college freshman is certainly an exciting time, but like all transitions it is also a mix of preparation, expectation and uncertainty. However, there is one thing that is certain — you, your son or daughter and JMU share the common goal of making this a successful transition and academic experience.

Just as you played a part in achieving all those past milestones, you will be an important component in making this yet another successful transition in your daughter's or son's life.

We are aware that no one knows your daughter or son as well as you. So to help you as you support your son or daughter through this transition period, we offer the following suggestions, advice and tips.

  1. Expect your daughter or son to want or need your support, but also expect an occasional irritable reaction to what may be perceived as "parental intrusion."
  2. Expect your son or daughter to now and then straddle the line between their old lifestyle and their new lifestyle.
  3. Expect change. College, and the experiences associated with it, can cause changes in the social, vocational and personal behavior of the student. Your daughter or son may change in some ways, but remember that your son or daughter will basically still be the same person you brought to campus on Freshman Move-In Day.
  4. Expect your son or daughter to earn the same grades they earned in high school. Even the best students sometimes earn a low grade on a first test. However, test grades usually rise as the student becomes more familiar with the subject matter and the professor. This is the time to encourage your student to keep trying and to talk with an adviser or the professor. There are many people on campus to help your child. When a student is motivated, a poor start in a course does not necessarily indicate a bad finish.

What should parents do?

Communicate with your son or daughter. You have the power to help them avoid trouble. You may need to be firm at times, but remember that your son or daughter is going through a transition. You can't cover every topic in one conversation; so talk to your daughter or son as often as possible.

Make sure your child understands that you recognize them as young adults.

Discuss the transition. Freshmen frequently make new friends quickly. Encourage this, but be prepared for your son or daughter to feel the sadness of separation from you. The sadness and grief they may feel initially is a normal and important part of the transition process. It will usually pass.

Set high expectations for grades, class attendance and time management. If students are convinced that their parents expect solid academic work, they are more likely to pay attention to their studies. This is a good time to restate your family values and your expectations. Your son or daughter needs to know how to relate the values you have instilled in them to the choices they will have to make.

Encourage students living on campus to remain on campus on weekends. This usually makes the transition to college life easier.

Encourage your daughter or son to get involved in campus activities. This is a good reminder to students that that they are not alone.

Make sure your son and daughter understands that it is easy to have fun at college without drinking, and encourage socializing without alcohol. Discuss the many on-campus opportunities and places -- clubs, organizations and the recreation center -- to meet new people. Plan a time with your daughter or son to visit this Web site together http://www.jmu.edu/jmuweb/students/services.shtml . You'll find "Clubs and Organizations" and the University Recreation Centeramong many others.

Encourage your daughter or son to take responsibility for their actions. Making choices and living with the consequences, whether good or bad, can be empowering.

Encourage your son or daughter to reserve some time for solitude. This will give them time to reflect on the changes that they are experiencing.

Encourage your son or daughter to take charge of their health, sleep, nutrition and sexuality and to find healthy ways to deal with the stressful changes at college. Remind them that exercise, volunteerism and talking with friends are all healthy and productive way to lessen the stress. Visit University Health Center and Counseling & Student Development Center for additional resources.

Support from home is important, especially during the first few months of your child's transition to college. Students find calls, packages and e-mail critical in helping them stay in touch with family and friends. Your openness with your daughter or son about the ups and downs of college life will help him or her adjust to the university environment.

The Office of Parent Relations will be glad to provide any additional information or assistance you may need. Please contact us at (540) 568-3193.

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