The Parental Experience
At its best, the experience of parenting is one of both teaching our children and learning from them. As our youth mature to adulthood, our role shifts from 'teacher' to 'coach and sounding board.' Finding our way requires courage, persistence, faith and forgiveness.
- Linda Williams, MA Psych. Program Coordinator, Learning Strategies Development, Queen's University
Enrolling your child at university is a significant transition for parents, guardians and families. Much as you may have raised your child to be motivated to develop themselves academically, personally and in other ways, it is a hard reality when you leave him/her at university, often miles away, and frequently without family close by! It is a safe assumption that you will experience many of the same up and down emotions as your student, plus parental concern for their well-being.
Family Background and Context
Families at Queen's come from many different backgrounds and contexts, and therefore have varying parenting styles, family models, and concepts of "self".
Your student's growing independence may challenge your traditional roles as parent. Students will need to make independent decisions and show initiative in the university environment e.g. when setting time priorities or participating in group projects or labs.
For many, these will be new skills, and especially challenging for students of closely-knit families. Students will do best if they are encouraged to develop the self-confidence to be autonomous, while remaining connected to their family and friends.
Families are often concerned that the values with which their student has been raised will be forgotten in the new university experience.
It may be challenging for parents to watch their student explore new ways of thinking, believing, acting or dressing but these activities are important in the development of the unique person that your student will become.
One advantage of your student experimenting with new bedtimes, new eating styles, new political ideas, or new career interests is that he/she is doing so within a caring community, at an age-appropriate period of time, and with support resources available.
Students will learn much by "doing", and then by "managing" the outcome of their decisions, but only if they are given the opportunity.
Emerging adults see themselves both as separate from, and a part of, their family. If this is the first student in your family to leave home, your own feelings of separation, loss and change of role may surprise you.
Your role may be to express your trust that your student will learn and become responsible for himself/herself and to point him/her in a helpful direction when asked.
Parents as Advocates
Parents or guardians who have had a very active advocacy role for their child for reasons of mental or physical health concerns, disability issues, personal challenges, etc. may experience strong mixed emotions of uncertainty, relief, fear, hope, and/or excitement as their student attends university.
We suggest that you encourage your student to connect with appropriate resources on campus, and that you set up regular (but not too frequent) check-ins.