As the start of the school year approaches and the University of Georgia continues to return to more traditional operations, parents and their first-time college students need to consider the best ways to approach this transition. Experts emphasize meeting in the middle.
“I think one of the most respectful things we can do … is talking to our young adult child, and saying ‘What do you need from me?'” said Janet Frick, who is an associate professor in the UGA Department of Psychology and also the parent of a UGA student.
For parents who may be apprehensive about their student’s departure for campus, UGA staff also encourage a deep-dive into the plethora of resources available online and in-person, for everyone involved.
“UGA has several opportunities for parents to stay connected to what’s happening on campus,” Victoria Redmon, assistant director of student transitions said. “Parents can check out opportunities to stay engaged through the Parent and Family Portal or the Parents Leadership Council.”
In many ways, it’s not just the class of 2026 that’s starting from scratch — sophomores and their parents may also be grappling with a return to regular campus following the upheaval of the pandemic. So for any parents that might need some advice with helping and not hovering, this one’s for you.
Acknowledge their independence
Frick said one of the most consistent themes among college students is a frustration having to do with parental control. While it’s important to keep students in check, parents should approach their students with a respect for their own ability to take care of themselves.
“If they have a problem to solve, let them solve it,” Frick said. “You can be a sounding board, but let them take the lead on that.”
Frick, who has a doctorate degree in developmental psychology, said it’s also important for parents to separate their own experiences from those of their students.
“Of course, we influence our kids, and the things we teach them shaped who they become, but they really are also their own people,” Frick said. “They’re going to be the ones figuring out what they want to do in the world.”
Of course, parents should also encourage students to remember that the college experience has wide reaching effect on families, too.
“Have a conversation with [your student] about the college experience and what your expectations are,” Redmon said.
Be aware of every resource
UGA offers extensive resources for parents and students alike. The Office of Student Care and Outreach is a one-stop shop connecting families with on-campus resources, including those focused on health and wellness, financial assistance and campus engagement.
While faculty and staff will not — and cannot — discuss academic information with parents unless students have given permission in advance, parents can encourage students to explore tutoring and academic support services offered through the Division of Academic Enhancement. More information on legal guidelines on FERPA — or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — can be found under the general information tab at reg.uga.edu.
Redmon also suggests parents look into the Department of Student Transitions Interactive Transition Guide.
“While it is a great resource for current students, it can also be helpful for parents who are looking to learn more about resources at UGA,” Redmon said. “From navigating campus to discovering opportunities available to students, this guide is full of quick links that will help parents learn more about the resources dedicated to their student’s success and well-being.”
Let them lead the conversation
It’s easy for parents to step in as the experts, but allowing students to lead conversations and ask their own questions might result in more open lines of communication.
Frick recommends parents try being “just a listener,” offering advice as it’s asked for rather than jumping into lecture mode without thinking.
Feelings of isolation and loneliness from this past year are common, and nudging students to take advantage of opportunities for social interaction might help them with this transition in the long run.
“It takes time to sort of find your people or … the activities you want to do,” Frick said. “And I think a lot of freshmen come in thinking that that’s going to be easy.”
Redmon recommends participating in Welcome UGA, which is an effort to celebrate first-year and transfer students at the beginning of the semester. Events include open houses, information fairs and late-night programming. There are “numerous opportunities for students to acclimate to campus, make new friends and start building great memories,” she said.
Everyone is going through a transition, which is bound to be difficult no matter how many times you’ve done it, Redmon said, adding: “You are not alone in this experience, so it’s OK to lean on your support systems during this adjustment .”
This article was originally published in the 2022 edition of our UGA 101 special publication.