The first of our New Student Receptions is tonight in Weston, MA, a Boston suburb. I’ll be there to help staff that event, so am doing a little pre-blogging for the time I’ll be traveling.
On the Newstudents.wfu.edu website, we have a section called Advice for New Parents. If you are a new parent (P’19), we encourage you to visit. And if you are the parent of an upperclassman/woman and you missed it last year, feel free to review it as well.
This year we added a new item called Stop, Drop, and Roll about student problem-solving. It’s meant to be a bit cheeky but at the same time tackle one of the tough parental decision points – when to help your student with problems vs. when to let go and let them do it.
There are great benefits to students trying to find answers and solutions on their own whenever possible. However, as a mom myself (hopeful P’27), I frequently struggle with knowing when to jump in and when to back off. And I also wanted to be sure that parents have resources and contact information if you need to be in touch for a truly urgent situation. Hope you find this useful.
— by Betsy Chapman
One of the most important ways parents and families can help their students have a successful transition to college life is by encouraging them to solve their own problems. Please bookmark or print out this Stop, Drop and Roll Student Problem-Solving flyer so you have it when your student contacts you with a problem. Also, the flyer lists contact information for urgent and serious concerns where parent intervention might be appropriate.
When your student calls you with a problem, rather than jump right into FIX IT! Mode, we’re asking you to Stop, Drop, and Roll. Here’s what we mean:
Stop – and take a deep breath when your student contacts you with a problem. Is it REALLY, something he or she cannot solve on his or her own? If you fix the problem for your student, has your student really learned anything or developed self-reliance and independence?
Drop – the urge to reach out and fix things yourself or provide instructions on how your student should handle the situation. Instead, push back with questions: What do you think you might do? What are your options? What campus offices might have resources? What have you already tried?
Roll – with it! This is easy to say, but hard to do. Let your student do the problem-solving on his or her own (even if the solution is different from how you might have handled it). Struggling with adversity builds resilience and helps your students learn that they are capable and resourceful.
Why Is It Important to Let Your Students Solve Problems on Their Own?
None of us want to see our students struggle with problems. Think back to a time when you were 18 or 19 and had a big issue in front of you that you managed to solve on your own. Didn’t you feel good at the end that you managed to find a solution – even if it was hard at the time? Didn’t you feel stronger? more independent? capable? proud?
Parents, your problem-solving skills are already well-developed precisely because you have had to flex those problem-solving muscles many times in your life. Your skills developed over time and through use. Now it is your students’ turn to grow those muscles!
Unintended Consequences of Parents’ Problem-Solving for their Students
Sometimes parents – with only the best of intentions – want to solve their students’ problems thinking it will help their student (e.g. ‘my daughter is so stressed out about midterms – if I can call Residence Life for her and find the answer she needs, it will take one thing off her plate and help her!’) While you may think intervening on your student’s behalf will help in the short term, are you helping them develop the skills they need in the long term? We all have to juggle multiple priorities in our adult lives – school or work, relationships, home issues, money issues. The sooner your students learn to manage competing priorities and solve problems, the better prepared they will be for the real world after college.
Another issue that arises from parent intervention is that when you fix things for your students, the message you may send them – however unintended – is that you might not believe your students can fix the problems on their own, or that you don’t trust them do it right themselves. This can create a cycle of uncertainty and dependence at a time when your students need to develop self-advocacy, independence, and problem solving skills.
What Abour Serious Problems or Urgent Concerns?
While we encourage you to let your student navigate his or her Wake Forest experience as independently as possible, if you have an urgent concern about the health, safety, or wellbeing of your student or others, there are offices available to assist you.
Admin Offices: firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Health Service
Nurse available at the Health Service with physician on-call back-up after clinic hours (5:00 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.) Monday through Friday and 24
hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays during the Fall and Spring semesters
University Counseling Center
After-hours and weekend crisis response available when school is in session by calling the Student Health Service at 336-758-5218
Office of Parent Programs
parents.wfu.edu (main Parents’ Page) and parents.wfu.edu/faq/ (Parents’ Page FAQ with answers to many frequently-asked questions)
After hours assistance
Most administrative offices work on a Monday-Friday 8:30 am-5:00 pm schedule. If you have an urgent need to reach someone at the university because you have a concern that must be addressed quickly, we have designated the University Police as our 24/7 contact. They can assess the situation and determine who best to address your concern.
The 24-hour contact number for University Police is 336.758.5591 (non-emergency) or 336.758.5911 (emergency). They can get in touch with on-call
duty staff 24-hours/day.