Parents and Families
Opening the World
Welcome Parents and Families.
This is a new journey for you and your student. We are here to help and support you on this adventure. We expect parents and family members to play an active role in the success of your NU student. The challenge is how to be involved while ensuring that your student is the one making the decisions, learning the lessons and taking healthy risks. What makes this hard (and for some downright scary) is that your student has to learn how to balance newfound freedoms with an immense degree of responsibility.
Here at Northwestern we view parents as partners in the learning, growth and development of their student. Ultimately the responsibility falls to the student, as we work together to transition students from a state of dependence to a healthy level of responsible independence. During this transition there may be questions, and bumps along the way, but we hope to partner and support a students development along the way.
- It's a new Chapter
- An Evolving Relationship
- The Road to Adulthood
- As Student Advocates
- Lessons in Self Responsibility
- Being Open to Diversity
- Contributing to Community
- The Benefits of Smart Choices
- Support Close at Hand
- Privacy of Student Records and FERPA
- Suggested Readings
- Other Resources
Transitions...a Time for Trust
Emotions are bound to be mixed. For many parents, the "I want them to stay forever young" feelings often do battle with the "Yes, they really need to grow up and go to school now" thoughts. That's completely natural. After all, this person is a big part of your life. And that doesn't have to change.What will change is the frequency of your communication and the nature of that communication. You won't be able to see every part of your student's life. You'll need to trust your student's instincts and the positive values you instilled in your student. This trust is KEY to making the college transition work for both of you.
They just need you in different ways now. For instance:
They Need You to Let Go
Try not to do everything for your student; the experience of having to figure out things without help, is a necessary strength-builder for your student.
They Need to be Able to Make Mistakes
Part of exploring this new found sense of independence involves the inevitable making of mistakes. A college student who is terrified of "screwing up" in his parent's eyes may not take some positive risks such as tackling a new subject or trying out for an acapella group. Students need support as they take risks. And risks most often lead to growth.
They Need to Know That You Believe in Them
As your student tries new things, gains an expanded world view and questions assumptions, your student's perspective may change. Successful students are able to experiment like this because, at the root of it all, they know that someone back home believes in them in their intelligence, their initiative and their ability to make good decisions.
Interested, Not Intrusive
Just because your student is at school, it doesn't mean that your student no longer needs you. It's important for you to be involved; it's actually quite essential to your student's success!
The key is being interested in what's happening to your student's life without being too intrusive. Some ways to do that include:
- Don't make conversation feel like "quizzes"
- Ask your student about what is being learned in class instead of always focusing on grades
- Balance your communication by not always making it about your student; share what's happening in your life too
- Don't call, email or text constantly; there needs to be a healthy distance
- Ask your student about what are you interests so far and what are they getting involved in; let your student share his enthusiasm!
Understanding the university's role in your students life is one of the best ways to support your student. We're not here to take over the parenting role that's solely up to you. We are here, however, to help your student develop into a responsible, healthy adult.
What is "student development" about? In a nutshell:
- We provide opportunities for students to achieve competence in academic and non-academic arenas
- We challenge them while also providing support
- We teach them how to manage emotions and work through challenges
- We help them become autonomous so they can move from dependence to interdependence
- We encourage them to determine who they really are, on so many levels
- We support the development of positive relationships, including those with family, friends, partners, and diverse individuals
- We help students identify and pursue their purpose
- We offer assistance as they develop their values and figure out what they stand for
Many members of the campus community are involved in the student development process on a regular basis. They include:
Residential Life Staff; Orientation Peer Advisors; Support Staff; Student Leaders ; Career Services Professionals; Health Services Staff; PeerEducators; Faculty Members; Coaches; CAPS Counselors; Academic Support Services; Student Activities Staff; University Chaplain's Office; and many, many others!
In our work with students, the DOS and DOSA staff are guided by certain principles:
- We treat students as adults, getting them involved in solving their own problems instead of relying upon others to do it for them
- We intervene if we become aware of a potentially life-threatening behavior occurring
- We don't serve as "babysitters" for students
- We are concerned with students' safety and educate them on ways to keep themselves and others safe
- We don't ever want to see a student get hurt
- We expect students to take responsibility for their own actions; we are here to support students every step of the way
Students ResponsibilityWe expect students to take responsibility for:
- Their behavioral choices
- Respecting rules and policies
- Academic honesty and persistence
- Personal integrity and care
- Developing healthy study, eating and sleep habits
- Seeking assistance when needed
- Being a positive member of the campus community
Self-responsibility is one of the most important things your student can learn at college. Initially, it may take some trial and error for the lessons to kick in but, once they do, your student will have learned a valuable fact: no one is responsible for your life but you.
That's why it's not up to you to "fix" things when something happens. Many people are available to students to help them right a wrong. As long as they take responsibility for their choices and actions, they'll find support every step of the way.
Chances are that your student is going to be positively challenged by the new people your student encounters on campus. The roommate with very different political views, the friend with a different religious background, the classmate from a different ethnicity all will open your student's eyes, if your student is willing. Encourage this type of growth because a student who is open to diversity will experience Northwestern and the world much differently than one who is not.
It may start out as a stint with hall government. Then, your student may get involved in community service. Soon, your student may be leading an organization or doing an internship with a group that shares your student's beliefs. Community involvement means different things for different people. What's most important is that they just do something.
Alcohol and Other Drugs
It's possible that your student will be tempted to experiment with alcohol and other drugs during the college years. You can help your student make smart choices. There's no guarantee that your student will always make the smartest choices when it comes to alcohol and other drugs. Yet, your efforts are bound to have an impact. Northwestern University Police Department provides resources and information on Alcohol and Drug Awareness. There is also a dedicated website for Alcohol and Other Resources.
Personal Safety: Playing it Smart
Remind your student that safety experts Northwestern University Police Department advocate:
- Not walking alone in isolated areas
- Keeping living spaces locked
- Not giving out personal information to people met online
- Reporting any threatening texts, calls or emails right away
- Never becoming so intoxicated that your student loses consciousness or the ability to be safe
Your student's well-being is of utmost concern! We want your student to flourish, to learn from mistakes, to experience triumphs and to stay healthy. And there are ways you can help in that pursuit.
You can be an academic supporter by taking an interest in what your student is learning and how your student is learning it can go a long way.
Staying well is vital to students' overall success. So with your encouragement and support, students can stay well during their time at school.
We know that life at Northwestern University can at times be very stressful. A wellness check can be conducted on a student (for any number of reasons) if a level of concern is present. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Dean of Students office during normal business hours (9AM-5PM) at 847-491-8430 or Northwestern University Police after hours (24 hours) at 847-491-3456 and request a wellness check if needed.
A Web of Support
Students who are struggling with various concerns can turn to:
Campus professionals are there because they truly want to work with college students and many have specific training to help them connect with this population. So,encourage your student to seek help rather than "toughing it out" alone. Asking for help is a sign of great strength make sure your student knows that.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of a student's educational records. It applies to schools receiving funds through the U.S. Department of Education.
Once a student enters college or turns 18 years old, rights to control the release of records and information under FERPA transfer from parents to students. Therefore, a student’s educational records are typically not shared with parents unless your student gives written permission or it's a special case, such as a health or safety emergency.
Institutions are required to post an annual FERPA notification.
For more information, please visit Northwestern University's FERPA Policy within the Registrar's site or just ask us. You can also download the FERPA release form.
Many parents have found the following books helpful in preparing for and adjusting to their student's new life in college.
- Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger
- Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The Essential Parenting Guide to College by Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller
- Guide to the College Experience by Jacqueline Kiermana MacKay and Wanda Johnson
- When Your Kids go to College: A Parent's Guide to Changing Relationships by Barbara Newman and Philip Newman
- Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by N. Howe and W. Strauss
- Millennials Go to College by N. Howe and W. Strauss
- Generations by N. Howe and W. Strauss
- New Student & Family Programs assists new, admitted students and their families.
- University Career Services invites you to learn about career options including internship, graduate school and full time opportunites for your student.
- Multicultural Student Affairs celebrates diversity by heightening awareness and educating our constituents about cultural and ethnic diversity.