College Student vs Family Roles

Yesterday, a message went out to incoming students who are still not in compliance with our immunization requirements. Those students will not be allowed to come to campus, move in, or attend classes. If your student received that message (and I can’t tell you if they did or didn’t because of student privacy laws), they must take action and turn their documentation in. Even if they *think* they did it, if we sent them a message, it means Wake does not have record of their being in compliance. I can’t stress enough how critical it is for students to ensure they are compliant. Please check with your incoming Deacs to make sure they are compliant.

One more item for incoming students: they received this message today about ordering books and other announcements.

I shared a post on our official Wake Forest Parents and Families Facebook page today from a college professor who stresses some of the skills college students need. For the rest of today, I want to talk about college student roles vs parent/family roles.

During the K-12 school years, families were encouraged to take an active part in their student’s education. In college, one of the goals is for students to develop independence, so families’ roles must be different now.

Family members are still incredibly important – you are the key source of love and support for your students! But in order to grow, college students need to begin making their own decisions, be in charge of their day-to-day activities, etc.  

We encourage families to move away from a manager or director role with their students (where you provide directions and answers), and adopt more of a consultant role (where you serve as a sounding board to prompt their thinking, but allow your students to find their own answers).

Having role clarity can assist students and families alike. Here are some suggestions on student vs. family roles:

Your student should: 

  • Choose their classes and major/minor
  • Make friends
  • Decide which campus organizations they wish to join
  • Handle day to-day needs and decision-making
  • Be the one to work with faculty or campus offices when they have questions or need assistance
  • Share feedback or concerns with appropriate faculty or offices
  • Research areas of interest (e.g., study abroad)

Parents and families should:

  • Provide a loving base of support
  • Listen more, talk less
  • Give them space to grow
  • Be a sounding board
  • Prompt them with questions, not supply answers or directions
  • Respect their student’s privacy by not sharing any personal information about their student (e.g., your concerns, anxieties, your student’s medical info, etc.) in public forums like college message boards, group texts with other families, etc.
  • Help only if it’s truly needed (see Stop, Drop, and Roll)

The bottom line: in most cases, your Deac should be the one to do the work, make the call, ask the question, give the feedback, etc. Our students need space to learn and grow – and your problem solving skills are already well-developed. This is their time to find their own way, make their own decisions (and mistakes!), and develop independence.

— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

August 10, 2022

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