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Restrain or React: Should a Parent Get Involved?

Failing a course, getting angered about a term paper grade or being upset with university policy—these stress-filled scenarios can lead to feelings of discouragement, disappointment and even disgruntlement for your student. It may be tempting to get involved, but should you?

With communication between family members being shared on a weekly if not daily basis, students straddle a relationship with both their parents and college personnel who serve as faculty advisors, professors, department directors and more.

At times, differing opinions, misunderstandings and frustrations can arise over grades, finance charges, registration issues, roommate disagreements or other facets of college life. As a caring parent, you may waver between wanting to help your student and trying to abstain so he/she can learn to self-manage issues. But how does a parent offer support while encouraging independence?

In truth, it isn't always easy. Developing independence can be a learning experience for students and parents alike as their relationship transforms throughout the college years. Parents of first-semester freshmen may consider contacting the college with questions or concerns but wouldn't do so three years later. 

Partners in Education

At BW, parents are seen as partners in education who play an important role in the parent-student-college relationship. Parents are encouraged to regularly talk with their students about important issues. 

From a student's perspective, parents offer support in ways similar to that of a life coach—a person whose input is valued in areas of problem-solving, decision-making and goal attainment in daily life. 

However, coaching someone at the college level isn't so much about directing actions as it is about having ongoing conversations with a student that involve listening and support combined with prudent guidance. 

At times, a student or parent may disagree with university policy or personnel, or be frustrated in feeling his/her concerns are going unaddressed. The following questions might help you decide if you should contact the college: 

  • Am I concerned about a safety issue that could affect my student or others?
  • Do I have a question about financial aid or something that impacts me directly?
  • Has my student talked with the appropriate person(s) or is he/she deferring to me because of embarrassment or a lack of motivation or interest?
  • Could my student's discouragement, disappointment and/or disgruntlement correspond to something that flared up quickly but will be forgotten tomorrow?
  • In talking with my student, do I feel he/she is telling me everything or do we need further discussion?
  • Do I encourage my student to view my input and that of BW representatives as resources for his/her own decision-making?
  • Is the information I seek protected by FERPA, HIPAA or other privacy-oriented regulations? If so, what is the best way for me to talk with my student about this topic?
  • What is the best way for me to support my student? If I assist, am I limiting his/her ability to self-manage a situation? If I say nothing, could there be repercussions he/she might be unaware of?
  • Did I visit the BW Web site to see if the information I seek is posted there or if there are university services I can direct my student to?
  • If I am upset, should I contact BW today or wait a day or two to see if the situation gets resolved and/or if my feelings about it change?
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