Parenting advice: Start this new chapter by listening and talking about the years ahead
By Nancy Corbin, WWU Counseling Center director
Navigating the many stages of your children’s development is challenging enough. But the development during the college years can seem like sailing our Northwest waters: Expect some fog and take joy in the sunny days.
There are many professionals in Western’s Division of Student Affairs whose job it is to help your student through difficult times and plan for success. And while our staff helps students solve problems ranging from health and personal issues to academic and career concerns, they also help students develop skills and strategies for making sound decisions throughout their lives.
To guide us as we work with students, we look at how human development follows some typical patterns as students develop skills in gaining and maintaining mature and healthy relationships, defining a purpose for their personal and professional lives, and clarifying their guiding beliefs and values. Many experiences in students’ lives provide opportunities to learn these life lessons.
Here are some things we’ve learned:
What students don’t want to hear is, “These are the best years of your life.” Nor do they want to hear how capably students’ parents handled similar problems in their own lives.
Listening – really listening – to students’ concerns and experiences is always a valuable starting point as your relationship with your student develops into an adult-adult relationship.
Before your student loads the car with her or his worldly possessions to move into the residence hall, talk about how each of you wants your relationship to develop as you navigate the transition. How much contact? Daily e-mail? Weekly phone calls? How does your student want you to respond if you are genuinely concerned about him or her, and what support you are going to provide – and not just financial?
This means that your most effective role is to resist the urge to solve the student’s problem. Students tell us that parents are ultimately most helpful when they listen to students’ concerns and guide them through their own problem-solving process.
Nancy Corbin, a psychologist, has been the director of the Counseling Center for eight years.