What’s My Role Now? By Rebekah Freed, Director of Student Development
Before coming to Concordia to serve as the Director in the Student Life Office, I worked for 9 years in a church directing the High School and Young Adult Ministries and also worked on the University at Buffalo campus. Time and time again I saw it to be true; while a parent’s role may shift as children enter college, parents are still one of the biggest influences in a student’s life. This applies to many areas of life, but it is especially true in regards to their faith life. A spiritual life survey we did on campus in the last few years echoed that same observation I had in my years working at a church:
Parents, you matter!
However, it can be a challenge to navigate how involved or not to be in the day-to-day life of your student. Our encouragement is simply to avoid the extremes. Maybe you’ve heard the term “helicopter parent.” This is the one who is too involved, most often coming from a place of deep care for your child. If you lean this way, give your students chances to learn things for themselves, or even fail a little. Whether it’s learning to do their own laundry or having a tough conversation with a professor, resist the urge to do it for them. Coach them, encourage them, but let them take responsibility.
The other extreme is to completely disengage. This often comes with good motives of wanting them to step out on their own or give space, but the truth is that most of them still do want and need your encouragement and support.
Think of yourself as shifting into the role of a coach. In an athletic event, the coach is still a vital part of the team, but he or she isn’t on the court or field. The coach doesn’t run out there and take the ball when something goes wrong. They lead from the sideline. They encourage and challenge and support and offer suggestions. They help those they lead process what’s going on and then send them back out again.
Here are some specific ideas on how to be a good “coach” for your college student:
- Ask good questions and just listen. Resist the urge to have your own answer for everything.
- When they have a problem, help them brainstorm possible resources or solutions. This gives you a chance to share some ideas if you have some but gives them a sense of ownership in figuring out what to do next.
- Pray for them. Pray with them if that’s possible too.
- Think about what would be especially encouraging to your child. Do they love surprises? Send them a random care package “just because.” Have you found that words of affirmation are a way they feel loved and cared for? Are you close enough to show up at a game or recital and communicate their value through your presence? You probably know them better than anyone. Find personal ways to encourage and support them.