Advice from parents and families

At previous START sessions, our very own Senior Director of Parent and Family Programs, Julie Schwartz, compiled a list of “parent advice” she heard throughout conversations with parents and families. Below are snippets of wise advice from your peers.

General themes heard throughout START:

  • Every child is different, don’t expect siblings to approach and handle college in the same way.
  • Let go of expectations around regular communications. Don’t take it personally if your child doesn’t respond to your texts right away!
  • When you do check in, ask open-ended questions. “How are you finding _____?” for example.
  • Encourage student to get involved with clubs, groups, campus activities outside of schoolwork to find new friends and sense of belonging.
  • Don’t encourage child to come home too often during the first year.
  • There will be lots of changes and challenges. Let them navigate through—ask if they want your advice, don’t assume and/or manage problems on their behalf.

Direct quotes, feelings and stories heard throughout START:

“Don’t trust that your most amazing child will be fine. Keep up with their information. Don’t let your child come home right away. You can visit them, but don’t let them come back to the comfort zone!”

Mom with 2nd daughter at OSU says that COVID didn’t help and her child is now living off campus. When she received no text responses, mom would get worried and it hurt her feelings. Daughter was making friends and building relationships, but ‘she doesn’t need me anymore.’ (Not usually a needy person!)  Mom’s advice: “Talk in advance of expectations.”

Mom says she’s ready for her son to go, but he’s stressed out and scared. Her advice: “Have compassion. This is all new, be patient with them. You’re learning your kid anew, they are becoming a new person.”

“Ask them, ‘What do you think?’ before offering advice.”

At their weekly check-ins, their son would always tell them something exciting he was experiencing.  Advice: “Every child is different, don’t expect them to be the same.”

Mom with four college-aged kids’ advice: “Plan your moving day. Find out as much as you can. Will be you and your student. Recommend IKEA blue bags or Target red ones. Don’t expect carts and dollies. If they invite you to visit, do it! They won’t invite you again.”

“Pack your patience’ during Move-In Days. It’s very chaotic and emotional.”

“Check in with student about your (changing) role. Ideally before Move-In Days. ‘What do you expect from me?’”

“Don’t take it personally when they don’t respond to your texts. Make sure all medical authorizations are in order and in place, before your child ends up in hospital.”

“Encourage your student to communicate with TA’s and instructors. Parents can’t advocate for them.”

“Marching Band was a great thing—get involved!”

For help with mental health: “She had extreme anxiety and couldn’t find a therapist. There are really good online apps these days.”

“Orientation helped her the most! Just being here at START was calming and engaging.”

“Phone calls helped. Be a ‘mom’ but not overbearing. Create a specific time of the week to connect. Encouraged them to think about, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen if…’  (doesn’t complete major, flunks out, etc.)”

“Sharing with other parents was helpful. Failing in class doesn’t mean their future is over. They will make mistakes, let them.”

“Excited, both Mom and Dad are OSU grads!”

Dad with his third son to attend college says all his boys have been very different. “They need to learn for themselves, they’re not you.”

Parent with a child who transferred from PSU: “They will find their niche. Be patient.”

“Be there for them, but understand that it’s ‘their life’. They may start being angry, starting in June. Very normal, makes the separation easier… (in theory!)”

Dad with multiple children in college: “Utilize the older kid to help the younger kid.”

“Just remember to ask, ‘What do you want to tell me about?’ Ask open-ended questions. Leave that open-ended space for them to share.”

“Be prepared for change.”

“Let them fail and figure it out. Each kid is different.”

“Let go and let them have confidence in themselves. Don’t question everything, let it go.”

“What gifts can you offer your student to help them cope?”

“Staff can be helpful to your student, but they have to engage with them—in PERSON.”

“Care packages, amplify this”

Advice from an OSU panel

  • Command strips - don’t use! Prefer tacs or small nails for dorms.
  • No microwaves, no beds, mattresses from home. A pillowtop is fine, no furniture. Bring a good bike lock. Parking permits are covered separately. 
  • Pets: they do allow a 10-gallon fish tank!
  • Midnight train on campus: bring a fan or white noise machine if that bothers you
  • Safety on campus and in dorms: lock doors when in shower, sleeping. Leave door open in the dorms when not studying, etc. They need to engage with others! Especially post-COVID. Talk to people face to face, might be still somewhat new or uncomfortable.