College is often the first time students can make a space entirely their own. They get to set their own rules, be clean or messy, go to sleep at 3 am (not that we recommend that), etc. It is a place for young adults to figure out what type of people they are. It also becomes a place for parents to visit. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to visiting your student at school.
DON’T: Surprise Your Child
This is the number one rule. There might be an occasional exception (i.e., showing up for a birthday dinner), but keep in mind it would be as if unexpected guests showed up at your house. Your child likely has plans, whether that means working, studying, doing homework, or taking some time to relax with friends. Respect those plans and that your child is somewhat autonomous now. Respect your student as you would any other adult in your life.
DO: Plan Ahead
A visit from parents can easily be a fun and relaxing time together if you give your student a chance to prepare for it. Calling and planning ahead is an easy fix. It allows your child to get that assignment done or ask for the night off from their boss. That way you can spend time with each other without the weight of things unfinished in the back of your child’s mind.
DON’T: Stress Too Much About Cleaning
It’s easy to wish that your child’s dorm room or apartment were clean. Many times, your student probably wishes that too. In the constant busy culture of today’s college and university campuses though, cleaning might be put off for a while. That project due at midnight is going to be of greater concern than folding the freshly washed laundry. The cleaning fairies will visit when there’s not so much going on.
DO: Remind Your Child to Take Care of Themselves
The little things like showering, sleeping, and eating are sometimes flung to the wayside when a student has multiple projects and papers due. Use your visit to check in with your child. Remind them of all the little ways to decrease stress. Suggest taking a break here and there. Most importantly, be that moment of relaxation when you are visiting your student.
DON’T: Visit During Midterms or Finals
Know your child’s schedule to some extent. Give your child the best opportunity to be great. Don’t add the stress of needing to make time for you when it is supposed to be prime study time. Your child will thank you once those tests and projects are done.
DO: Support Your Child’s Interests
Just like in grade school and high school, it’s always nice to see a friendly face in the crowd at events. Whether it’s a concert, a mock trial, a theatrical show, or an athletic event, support your student in their chosen extracurricular. In addition to getting to see your child involved in the school community, you will also have something fun to talk about at dinner afterward.
DON’T: Focus the Conversation Solely on Schoolwork
Sometimes asking about grades and study habits can be overly stressful. So much mental energy is already spent on schoolwork. Allow your visit to be a break in the monotony by bringing in a rainbow of other topics to talk about.
DO: Utilize Technology
Sometimes physically visiting your child isn’t possible. Taking a ten-hour drive every couple weeks doesn’t always work as easily as if you were only two hours away. But a virtual visit can be just as effective in a pinch. Skype and Facetime are excellent options when your child needs to see your face in addition to hearing your voice.