Helping your daughter or son

So you and your daughter/son have finally made it! All the hard work over years has finally paid off - s/he is now in college! Congratulations! This is a most exciting time for everyone, with much change and adjustment. As is the case with any new experience, having your daughter or son go to college can be quite stressful.

Along with the excitement of a new, important change, can come anxiety, worry, and questions about many things.

We at Counseling Services recognize that these concerns are common to many parents and family members. We hope this page will provide some helpful answers to these important questions.

How is my daughter/son doing?

During any particular day or week, your son or daughter may seem to be handling everything wonderfully. You may wonder, "Why was I so concerned?" Then again, the next time you talk to him or her, they might paint a completely different picture. "I hate it here!" "I don't have what it takes." "I'm not like the other students." These are very common concerns and feelings expressed by students. Just keep in mind that with any change, there is always a period of adjustment. And with adjustment, there may be both excitement and distress. Remind your daughter/son that these are common feelings, and share with them how their exisiting strengths will help them get through this period of adjustment.

How can I tell if my daughter/son is in distress?

As mentioned, there is a normal period of adjustment to college that includes both excitement and stress. Sometimes this adjustment can be as long as 6 months to a year. However, if over time you notice that your daughter or son is not coping well (e.g., is not acting like her/his "normal self," grades are declining, withdrawal from family and friends), you may considering suggesting that she/he seek assistance from a counselor at Counseling Services.

How am I doing with the change?

It is not uncommon for parents to experience the well known "empty nest" syndrome when their daughter/son leaves for college. They may have feelings of sadness, loss of control, and concern for what their children may be exposed to at an urban art college.

At the same time, many parents may feel conflicted when these feelings are mixed with excitement that comes with possibly having more independence and time. It is common to feel a wide range of emotions with this new change - from happy to sad. As is the case with your daughter/son, the adjustment to change can be difficult and may take some time.

What can I expect over the next few years?

Parents are evolving their relationship as your adolescents began to emerge as young adults. This is an new and important way of connecting with him/her as it recognizes the transition to adulthood. You can convey to your daughters/sons that you are aware of, and appreciate this transition, as well as providing opportunities to relate to them in new ways. Parents can consider developing an adult relationship with their daughter/son. This is a new and important way of connecting with her/him, as it recognizes and acknowledges the transition of your student from child to adult. This will convey to your daughter/son that you are aware and appreciate this transition, as well as provide opportunities to relate to them in new ways. As they transition to adulthood, keep in mind that your daughter or son may not want to share every detail of their lives with you at all times. Though this may not be what you would like or are used to, it is actually developmentally appropriate as your student gains a greater sense of identity and self.

How can I provide support for my student?

Providing support now will not be drastically different from how you have been doing it. Listening, communicating, and sharing are all important ingredients in letting your student know you care. Relaying these messages in a way that acknowledges the adult-to-adult relationship can build an even stronger bond. Again, keep in mind that at times they may not want to share everything with you - this is normal. But making sure they know that you care is the key (e.g., sharing your views on difficult topics, providing encouragement during times of stress, etc.). A balance of advice, encouragement, independence, and room to make mistakes can be important in conveying our support AND respect.

Though your daughter or son may not request it, it is important that you keep in touch. Have a plan for keeping in touch. Phone calls, e-mails, pictures of special events (both at school and family fun) may be some of the nice things you can do for each other to show you may be out of sight but not out of mind.

What resources are available for me and my daughter/son?

There are many resources available to you and your daughter or son. It is helpful for parents to be familiar with our services at Counseling Services, as well as at MassArt. The Academic Resource Center offers information and advising that compliments faculty advising. Questions regarding graduation and degree requirements, leave policies and discussions of academic problems or issues can be explored here 617-879-7280.

Also available in the Academic Resource Center is consultation with a learning specialist for academic accomodations, tutoring, and coaching. Call 617-879-7958 for more information.

If you have any questions, you can contact Counseling Services at (617) 879-7760 or counseling@massart.edu.

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