Parents and families of young women going through sorority recruitment: in case you get a frantic phone call or text about things not going so smoothly for your daughter, what should you do?
First of all, take some deep breaths. While your daughter may sound stressed, upset, angry, etc., remember that this is the heat of the moment for her. The calmer you stay, the better.
Let your daughter vent and listen and respond with empathy.
Resist the urge to try and fix it for her. This is a wonderful opportunity for your daughter to learn how to process negative emotions and work through them on her own – which is something she will need to do for the rest of her life. Better to build those skills now!
Instead of offering solutions of what you can do for her, instead ask your daughter how she thinks she wants to handle her situation. Let her seek her own solutions, so she learns to build problem solving and resiliency. Ask questions like: what have you considered doing? what are your options? where on campus might you turn for assistance or support?
Encourage her to take advantage of on campus support systems. If she does not know where to turn, you might ask a few leading questions “Isn’t there a University Counseling Center? Have you considered confiding in your RA or academic adviser? Can your Gamma Rho Chi (Greek Recruitment Counselor) be a resource?” Normally, the RAs and the GRCs check in on girls who withdraw from recruitment (or who are not successfully matched).
Sometimes a parent’s first reaction to the frantic phone call is to offer to come to campus to be with their daughters or offer to fly them home. Before you act, think it through. For some young women, being removed from all her other friends and support outlets on campus might have an adverse (and unintended) effect of making her sit at home (or in a hotel room with mom) and stew about the situation, which might be counterproductive. In addition, if your daughter leaves campus, she might not have a full opportunity to figure out how to process unhappiness and negative feelings on her own – if you are providing a well-meaning distraction to keep her mind off her sorority situation, she might not be building those self-care and resiliency skills – because she is looking to you to provide all that.
And while this is not the time she will want to hear that life will offer her many opportunities as well as disappointments, we all know there will someday be a job, or a house, or a spouse, or some goal that she wants and does not get – no matter how hard she works or how deserving she may be. We all have times when we don’t get what we want. But that is part of life. Sometimes learning that lesson and putting it into proper perspective earlier is better.
If the Office of Family Engagement can be of support to you or your daughter, please reach out to us (firstname.lastname@example.org).