Information for the parents of college students
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Communicating With Your College Student: Are You Sure You Understand?

When your child leaves home for college, you worry about losing contact.  She will be living at college, and perhaps not returning home for several weeks or months, so you worry.  However, with some effort on your part, your communication with your student may become even more meaningful than when she was home.

This post is the third in a series of five posts that may give you food for thought about how you communicate with your college student.   Some of our suggestions may be common sense reminders, and some may be new ideas for you.  Obviously, communication skills are interrelated, so please consider all of these suggestions together.  Our first post concerned how you listen to your student, our second looked at nonverbal communication.  In this post we discuss how to check perceptions to make sure you understand what your student is really saying.  In our final two posts we’ll look at how to ask helpful questions, and how to frame some of your messages so your student may be willing to listen.  We hope that thinking about how you listen and talk to your student may help you to keep all of your communication doors wide open.

You listen carefully to your student and you consider the nonverbal signals so that you can read between the lines.  You know you’re getting the message.  Maybe.  No matter how much care you take to try to get the message correctly, you may be wrong.  One technique that can help to improve your communication with your college student is called perception checking.  It is simply making sure that what you think you heard is accurate.  Don’t assume that your understanding is correct.

The goal of perception checking is that both you and your student have a shared understanding, that both you and your student know that you are working together to understand each other.  This cooperative approach helps you to clarify what you’ve heard, but not put your student on the spot.  It shows your respect for your student because you don’t assume that you can read his mind, and it shows that you recognize that your perspective may be different from your student’s.

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December 29, 2009   4 Comments

New Year’s Resolutions for High School Parents and Their College Bound Students

New Year’s is often a time of new beginnings.  For parents of high school students who may be headed off to college in the fall, this year will bring significant changes.  You may, or may not, be prepared for those changes, but you know that they are still several months away.  We’d like to offer some New Year’s resolutions to help you, and your college bound high school student, begin to prepare now.  We hope that you find them helpful – and that you pass some of these on to your student.

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December 27, 2009   No Comments

Communicating With Your College Student: Are You Reading Between the Lines?

When your child leaves home for college, you worry about losing contact.  She will be living at college, and perhaps not returning home for several weeks or months, so you worry.  However, with some effort on your part, your communication with your student may become even more meaningful than when she was home.

This post is the second in a series of five posts that may give you food for thought about how you communicate with your college student. We’re posting one of these articles each week for five weeks.  Some of our suggestions may be common sense reminders, and some may be new ideas for you.  Obviously, communication skills are interrelated, so please consider all of these suggestions together.  Our first post concerned how you listen to your student.  In this post we’ll consider nonverbal communication and the signals that you send and interpret. In future posts we discuss how to check perceptions to make sure you understand what your student is really saying, how to ask helpful questions, and how to frame some of your messages so your student may be willing to listen.  We hope that thinking about how you listen and talk to your student may help you to keep all of your communication doors wide open.

Most of us think of nonverbal communication as body language, and it is.  However, there are more facets to nonverbal communication than many of us might imagine, even though we use these aspects of communication daily to help us understand people. So, as we discuss nonverbal communication, let’s begin by broadening our definition.  Nonverbal communication is anything that helps to get a message from one person to another without using the meaning of the words.  With this definition, nonverbal communication includes not only body language, but also tone of voice, appearance, timing, facial expressions, and even the atmosphere in which we choose to have a conversation.

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December 22, 2009   1 Comment

New Year’s Resolutions for College Parents – and Their College Students

New Year is often the time for new beginnings.  Fortunately, for college students, the new year also often brings a new semester with its fresh start as well.  We offer here 10 New Year’s resolutions for college parents and 10 resolutions for you to pass on to your college student.  Enjoy your fresh start – and make this a great year for you and your college student!

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December 20, 2009   2 Comments

Help! My College Student Wants to Drop Out of College!

As a parent of a college student, you may be taken completely by surprise when your student comes home to announce that he wants to drop out of college.  Or it is possible that you have seen this coming for a few weeks or even months.  Either way, it may be difficult to believe or accept.  So much effort and emotional energy went into the choice of college and the admissions process, that it doesn’t seem possible that your student could want to quit now.  The reality is that, according to ACT (American College Testing) nearly 25% of students leave college before finishing their sophomore year.

Breathe!

So what should you, as a college parent, do if your student announces that she is ready to quit?  First of all, take a deep breath.  This was probably not an easy decision for your student and it was probably difficult for her to come to talk to you.  She will be watching carefully for your response.  This may be one of those opportunities in your student’s life when you can strengthen or weaken your communication and relationship with her.  If necessary, ask for time to absorb the news before you talk.  “This is an important decision and it’s taking me by surprise.  Can you give me some time to think about this and can we talk tomorrow?”  Don’t say anything right now that you may regret later or that will close a door.

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December 17, 2009   7 Comments

Communicating With Your College Student: Are You Listening?

When your child leaves home to head for college, you worry about losing contact with her.  If she will be living at college, and perhaps not returning home for several weeks or months, you worry.  However, it is possible that, with some effort on your part, your communication may become even more meaningful.

This post is the first in a series of five posts that may give you food for thought about how you communicate with your college student. We’re posting one of these articles each week over the next five weeks.  Some of our suggestions may be common sense reminders, and some may be new ideas for you.  Obviously, communication skills are interrelated, so consider all of these suggestions together.  This first post concerns how you listen to your student.  In future posts we’ll consider nonverbal communication and the signals that you send, how to check perceptions to make sure you understand what your student is really saying, how to ask helpful questions, and how to frame some of your messages so your student may be willing to listen.  We hope that thinking about how you listen and talk to your student may help you to keep all of your communication doors wide open.

Listening matters!

Listening may be one of the most important, and undervalued, communication skills that we use.  Unfortunately, many of us believe that listening is passive and that if we’re not talking, we’re not really communicating.  Listening well is difficult, and doing it well takes practice. Listening well will help you understand your student better and will also model listening skills for your student.  Hopefully, he’ll also learn how to listen to you. We’d like to offer eight suggestions that may help you listen more carefully to what your college student has to tell you.

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December 15, 2009   No Comments

Helping Your College Student “Supersize” His College Experiences

Is your college student taking full advantage of his opportunities in college?  As with so many things during the college years, students struggle to find balance in many areas of their lives.  They face many challenges, opportunities, and growing responsibilities.  College experiences come in many forms, and your student needs to determine how to negotiate these experiences.  In several areas, students may need help in discovering how to find the “extra value”.

Academics

The Norm:

Students come to college expecting a new level of schoolwork.  Most rise to the challenge of different types of classes and increased homework.  They know that they are required to spend more time outside of class doing schoolwork.  They know that their thinking may be challenged on a new level.  Many students do the work required and gain tremendous knowledge from their classes.

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December 13, 2009   No Comments

Need to Talk To Your College Student? Choose Your Time and Place Carefully

We’ve emphasized in many of our posts the importance of good communication with your college student.  We think this is such an important topic that we’re planning a series of posts in the next few weeks with some communication suggestions.  In the meantime, thinking not only about how you communicate, but also when and where you communicate may be helpful – especially if your student may be headed home for a break.  You might enhance your chances of a good conversation – or doom it – simply by choosing your time and place carefully.  Of course, there’s no exact answer for everyone.  Knowing your student, and thinking about your family dynamic makes all of the difference.  But here’s some food for thought.

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December 10, 2009   No Comments

Ten Parental Habits That Can Negatively Affect Your College Student

As college parents we want the best for our college students.  Many college parents have spent years planning for and working toward their student’s college experience.  They would never intentionally do anything to harm their student’s chances of making the most of his years in college.  However, there are some things that parents do, often unintentionally, that may have negative effects for their student.

Check this list below and consider whether or not you may be guilty of any of these habits.  Certainly, no parents are guilty of all of these habits.  Many parents may not be guilty of any of these habits.  Unfortunately, all are actions that some parents take at one time or another.  The list may seem harsh, but it gives us all pause, and food for thought.

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December 8, 2009   No Comments

Why Parents May Not Know Much About Life at College

If you feel as though you don’t know much about what life is like at your child’s college, there may be a reason.  A recent study conducted by the Brookings Institute discovered that only 1.4 percent of news coverage in this country deals with education.  Of that 1.4 percent, only about 27 percent deals with colleges and universities.  Twenty-seven percent of 1.4 percent isn’t much coverage!

The Brookings study covered the first nine months of 2009, and by comparison found that the 1.4 percent of coverage during this time was twice the amount of coverage in 2008, when it was 0.7 percent.  In addition to the fact that education was covered minimally, this study found that little of the coverage that there was dealt with school reform, teacher quality, curriculum or other educational policies.  In other words, the actual work of the schools was hardly covered.  Topics covered most during the period of this study were the H1N1 flu outbreak, budget problems, and school crime. Coverage of higher education topics centered largely on admission to college and paying for college.  Little coverage had to do with college life, college curriculum or college policies. This study concluded that “education news coverage suffers from problems related both to quantity and to quality.”

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December 6, 2009   No Comments