Encourage your student to balance social and academic life.
College is about more than academics; it’s a time to explore a variety of interests. With more than 400 student organizations at Iowa, there truly is something for everyone. Plus, studies show that students who engage in extracurricular activities that are not alcohol-centered are much more likely to succeed.
“While students should focus on their classes, encourage them to seek out other activities as well,” says Von Stange, director of University Housing. “There is plenty of time to go to classes, study, and participate in student organizations. And encourage them not to come home every weekend—they will feel more connected if they are at college for long stretches.”
Another important part of the college experience is learning to become an independent adult. For parents, that means learning to take a backseat.
“Parents need to give kids a chance to learn that their decisions have consequences,” says Carrie Kiser-Wacker, assistant to the director of University Housing. “Fortunately, in the residence halls they can learn that lesson with a ‘safety net’ of professional, experienced staff members and carefully selected and trained resident assistants (RAs) who keep tabs on students.”
Keep your radar running.
Students meet regularly with academic advisors, and faculty members are available during established office hours, but parents should note some red flags, says Sam Cochran, director of University Counseling Service.
“Watch for things like falling behind in school work,” Cochran says. “Or if students seem to have a negative spin on the entire experience—‘I don’t like my classes, my professors are unfair, I hate my roommate’—or if they feel sad about returning to the residence hall and their friends here, these could be warning signs.”
Help your student take charge of their health.
Parents are not only one of the most utilized sources of health information for students, but also one of their most trusted. College is the first time they will be making many health decisions on their own. Let them know that you support them, but that they are responsible for the consequences of their decisions.
A good resource is the University’s Student Health Service, a primary care facility on campus that offers clinical services and health promotion programs and maintains a web site at www.uiowa.edu/~shs.
Teach your student to respect others.
Prepare your student to be tolerant and respectful of others, and encourage him or her to establish ground rules with roommates for day-to-day living. And, although they may be tempted, parents should resist the urge to look up online profiles of their student’s roommates, say University Housing staff. If students do call home with legitimate roommate complaints, be supportive but encourage them to seek out their RA, who can help them mediate conflicts. If problems continue, hall coordinators also can be consulted.
As a community, The University of Iowa has norms of accountability, civic engagement, and intolerance of violent, abusive, or destructive behavior of any kind. Faculty and staff work hard to communicate these expectations to students in a variety of ways, but it also is important that you communicate your personal expectations to your son or daughter.
Resist the urge to fix your student’s problems, because learning to navigate life’s bumps and ruts is invaluable.
“It’s difficult to control the impulse to bail out your kids, because that impulse comes from a deep and loving place,” says Debora Liddell, associate professor of counseling, rehabilitation, and student development in the College of Education. “But I would encourage you to sit on that impulse for a while. Rather than learning problem-solving, they learn, ‘Mom and Dad will bail me out.’ They need our confidence in their abilities. Whenever we fix their problems, we rob them of the opportunity to cash in on that confidence. Our children don’t quit needing us; they just need us in different ways.”
Keep in touch.
One of the most helpful things is to share your expectations for communication before your student leaves.
“Let them know, for example, ‘I would like to hear from you once a week. Call me on Sunday night,’” says Kate Fitzgerald, assistant director for residence life in University Housing. “Parents worry, and having a plan to hear that familiar voice once a week helps.”
by Linzee Kull McCray