Watch your students keep on growing at college
Associate Dean of Students
By Liz Hansen
WWU University Communications
Whether it is your first child going to college or your last, it can be a tough transition accepting the fact your child is growing up and moving out. Sherry Mallory, Associate Dean of Students at Western, discussed with parents at Western's Summerstart what to expect during students' transition to college life and how parents can support them.
College is a time when students explore their individuality and identity, Mallory says. . "It may be blue hair or a pierced eyebrow," Mallory says. "It may be all of those new clothes you dropped off with your student have disappeared."
If this causes your blood pressure to rise, Mallory insists it is usually just a phase and they will grow and learn from it.Questioning beliefs
Borrowing from William Perry's "Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development," Mallory says students' development during college often falls into three fundamental steps: dualistic, multiplicity and relativism.
"Most students come to Western as dualistic thinkers," Mallory says. "They see the world in black and white. They may go into the Advising Center and say 'What should I take?' and get frustrated when the advisors won't tell them what to take but instead ask them what they are interested in."
As students adjust to college life they enter into the phase of multiplicity, where they start to realize it is not all black and white, there are shades of grey, Mallory says.Great conversations
"This may be a time where they begin to question family values and beliefs," Mallory says. For example, a student who was taught to go to church every week may call home and say they aren't going to church anymore. Often they will come back to those family traditions, Mallory says. They just need to find their own way there.
Relativism is the stage, Mallory says, Western hopes students reach before they graduate. Students generally reach this stage around junior or senior year, when they begin to see that all knowledge is valued and it really is about perspective.
"This is where parents begin to have adult conversations with their child and see them correlate theories and things they have learned in class with real world examples," Mallory says.
Mallory says one of the most difficult parts of the transition to college life is the use of time management.
"If you know your student struggles with time management maybe during one of those trips to Target while you stock up on everything your student will need, throw in a planner," Mallory says. "Or, encourage them to take advantage of one of the Tutoring Center's workshops on time management."
Expect that sometime during the first quarter or first year at Western your student is going to feel overwhelmed and is going to call home about it – often around midterms.Feeling overwhelmed is normal
"What we do know is when the going gets tough, the tough call home," Mallory says. "So be prepared to handle that. Try to keep in perspective why your student is calling you. You are the people they feel safe with. They think that what they are feeling, no one else is feeling here. In reality most of our freshman are going through this, they just won't talk to each other about it.
"Also, know that nine times out of 10, your student feels much better after hanging up the phone -- while your sleepless night begins."
Mallory says the other piece to remember is what parents hear on the other end of the phone is very real in that moment but there is a good likelihood they are not getting the entire picture.
"They may tell you about the horrible roommate, struggling with classes, but they aren't telling you about the intramural team they joined, or the hiking trip they took with the Outdoor Center," Mallory says.Know when to step in
Resist the urge to jump in and try and solve the problem. Parents who do will only reinforce the idea that the student can't solve the problem themselves, Mallory says.
There is one exception, however.
"You know your son or daughter better than anyone in the world," Mallory says. "So, you can tell in your child's voice when something is really wrong and when you hear that voice it is absolutely the right time to step in and call to get help."
Three numbers Mallory says parents should know, especially with any concerns regarding a student's health, are New Student Services/Family Outreach at (360) 650-3846, Student Life Office at (360) 650-3706 and Dean of Students at (360) 650-3775.