Caretaker to Coach: Encouraging Growth & Independence with your College Student
The beginning of the fall semester is here and admittedly; it looks very different than any of us had expected or hoped. Managing the pandemic has meant that many students are taking virtual classes and are living at home with family. This can be especially tough for first year students transitioning from high school to college, because while their classes have changed, much of their immediate environment has remained the same. As a parent or family member, there are still many ways that you can help create an experience that honors the transition to being a college student and encourages personal growth and development with your student.
- Transition from Caretaker to Coach: Start letting your student be in charge of their day-to-day responsibilities. Does your student need to be up early for an 8am class? Let them be the one to set an alarm and get themselves up. It might be so tempting to drag them out of bed, but as college students they need to take responsibility for managing their schedules. Think about putting them at the helm for other “life stuff”. This could mean letting your student now be responsible for setting up their own medical appointments, preparing their own food, or doing their own laundry. If your student was living on campus and would need to do something on their own, have them start doing it now even though they might be living at home.
- Offer Support, Resources, and Advice, but Don’t Solve Every Problem: This one can be tough. We all want to make sure our loved ones succeed, but your student will benefit more in the long run if you let them tackle their own problems. They might struggle or stumble, but it’s through that struggle that they learn to be independent and self-sufficient. As a parent/family member, know the resources, but let your student be the one to make a call, send an email, or reach out to the university. Let them give it the “old college try” first, then provide more assistance if they need it.
- A New Phase of Your Relationship: If you have a first year student that is taking virtual classes and still living at home, it might feel like you still have a high school student because there hasn’t been a physical transition. Patterns of how everyone in the household operate and relate to each other might still feel the same. As your student progresses in their college career, the nature of your relationship will change as they grow into “adults.” Give room for this shift and keep communication open with your student.
Everyone at Family Programs wishes you and your student a safe and happy start of the fall semester. We are all here to continue to provide support, resources, and assistance to all of our UMass Lowell families. Always feel free to contact us at Family@uml.edu.