Restrain or React: Should a Parent Get Involved?

Failing a course, getting angered about a term paper grade or being upset with university policy—these stress-filled scenarios can lead to feelings of discouragement, disappointment and even disgruntlement for your student. It may be tempting to get involved, but should you?

With communication between family members being shared on a weekly if not daily basis, students straddle a relationship with both their parents and college personnel who serve as faculty advisors, professors, department directors and more.

At times, differing opinions, misunderstandings and frustrations can arise over grades, finance charges, registration issues, roommate disagreements or other facets of college life. As a caring parent, you may waver between wanting to help your student and trying to abstain so he or she can learn to self-manage issues. But how does a parent offer support while encouraging independence?

In truth, it isn't always easy. Developing independence can be a learning experience for students and parents alike as their relationship transforms throughout the college years.

Partners in Education

At BW, parents are seen as partners in education who play an important role in the parent-student-college relationship. Parents are encouraged to regularly talk with their student about important issues. The following questions might help you decide what your level of involvement should be:

  • Am I concerned about a safety issue that could affect my student or others?

  • Do I have a question about financial aid or something that impacts me directly?

  • Has my student talked with the appropriate university person or is he or she immediately deferring to me to handle it?

  • Could my student's discouragement, disappointment or disgruntlement correspond to something that flared up quickly but will be forgotten tomorrow?

  • In talking with my student, do I feel he or she is telling me everything or do we need further discussion?

  • Do I encourage my student to view my input and that of BW representatives as resources for his or her own decision-making?

  • Is the information I seek protected by FERPA, HIPAA or other regulations? If so, what is the best way for me to talk with my student about this topic?

  • How can I best support my student? If I assist, am I limiting his or her ability to self-manage a situation? If I say nothing, could there be repercussions he or she might be unaware of?

  • Did I visit the BW website to see if the information I seek is posted there or if there are university services I can direct my student to?