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Guide for Parents, Guardians, and Families

Guide for parents

Welcome, parents, guardians, and families! This section will provide information for parents, friends, and family of MassArt students to increase their understanding of common stressors that may be experienced by you and your student.

This is a most exciting time for everyone, with much change and adjustment. As is the case with any new experience, sending your student to college can be quite stressful. Along with the excitement of a new, important change, can come anxiety, worry, and questions about many things. We at the Counseling and Wellness Center recognize that these concerns are common to many parents, guardians, and family members. Remember that your student’s transition to college is a transition for you as well. MassArt’s Counseling and Wellness Center is here as a resource.

MassArt’s Counseling and Wellness Center provides a range of services, including short-term therapy, to support students as they are experiencing some of the typical developmental concerns that come with being a college student. We are attuned to helping students discuss and explore aspects of their identity, and we recognize students whose flourishing is impacted by social injustices. We also assist in providing off-campus referrals to students who are looking for longer-term, specialized mental health treatment.

Consultation to Families

The Counseling and Wellness Center provides consultation to families who have questions or concerns about a student. Due to confidentiality laws, however, we may not be able to provide information about your student.

common adjustment strategies

During any particular day or week, they may seem to be handling everything wonderfully. You may wonder, "Why was I so concerned?" Then again, the next time you talk to them, they might paint a completely different picture. "I hate it here!" "I don't have what it takes." "I'm not like the other students."

These are very common concerns and feelings expressed by students. Just keep in mind that with any change, there is always a period of adjustment. And with adjustment, there may be both excitement and distress. Remind them that these are common feelings, and share with them how their existing strengths will help them get through this period of adjustment.

How can I tell if they are in distress? 

Every student is different, and your knowledge of your student will help you to be aware of any changes that seem significant or concerning. Here are some
common warning signs:

  • Consistent and significant changes in sleep pattern, including difficulty sleeping or oversleeping with difficulty getting out of bed
  • Feeling sad or appearing tearful nearly every day
  • Social isolation or increased withdrawal from normal activities
  • Expressions of hopelessness, e.g., "Nothing matters, why should I even try?"
  • Direct or indirect statements about death or suicide, e.g., "I wish I didn’t wake up in the morning."
  • Avoidance of certain places or situations, or fear of being alone
  • Increased irritability or restlessness
  • Paranoid thinking or incoherent speech patterns
  • Consistent reckless or dangerous behaviors
  • A sudden drop in academic performance, especially for students who generally perform well

How am I doing with this adjustment?

It is not uncommon for parents, guardians, and families to experience the well-known "empty nest" syndrome when their student leaves for college. They may have feelings of sadness, loss of control, and concern for what their student may be exposed to. At the same time, many parents may feel excitement that comes with possibly having more independence and time. It is common to feel a wide range of emotions with this new change, and attending to your own emotional needs will go a long way in easing this transition. As is the case with your student, the adjustment to change can be difficult and may take some time.

As your student transitions into college life, it is natural for your relationship to evolve. You can convey to your student that you are aware of and appreciate this transition, as well as provide opportunities to relate to them and connect with them in new ways. As they transition to adulthood, keep in mind that your child may not want to share every detail of their lives with you at all times. Though this may not be what you are used to, it is developmentally appropriate as your student gains a greater sense of identity and self. This is a period of time in your student’s life in which it is natural for aspects of their identity to shift, change, and grow.

Stay in touch

Even though your student may be further away, they still may need to know that you're there and available to discuss both normal events and difficult issues. Consider making arrangements to call, email, or text on a regular basis. It may be helpful to have a conversation about how often they would like you to check-in. Listening, providing advice and encouragement, and allowing for room to make mistakes can all be important in conveying support and care.

Communicate about financial matters

If possible, it can be helpful to create a plan regarding how to pay for tuition, fees, books/supplies, room and board, and other costs (such as social activities). Being specific at the outset may help avoid misunderstandings later. The Financial Aid Office is available to help talk about options and resources for funding your student’s time at MassArt.

Be realistic about academic achievement and grades

MassArt attracts students who are brilliant artists and designers and who are deeply passionate about their work. Many MassArt students excelled in the arts during high school, and being surrounded by other high achieving artists in college can be both inspiring and intimidating. Building and refining their craft and their sense of self within their work are hugely important developmental tasks that can be just as important, or even more important, than getting perfect grades.

How can I provide support for my student? 

Providing support now will not be drastically different from how you have been doing it. Listening, communicating, and sharing are all important ingredients in letting your student know you care. Relaying these messages in a way that acknowledges the adult-to-adult relationship can build an even stronger bond. Again, keep in mind that at times they may not want to share everything with you - this is normal. But making sure they know that you care is the key (e.g., sharing your views on difficult topics, providing encouragement during times of stress, etc.). A balance of advice, encouragement, independence, and room to make mistakes can be important in conveying our support and respect. Though your student may not request it, it is important that you keep in touch. Have a plan for keeping in touch. Phone calls, emails, pictures of special events (both at school and family fun) may be some of the nice things you can do for each other to show you may be out of sight but not out of mind.  

  • The Academic Resource Center (ARC) at MassArt collaborates with students and faculty to support instruction, enhance academic success, and retain a diverse student body. Academic Advisors, Success Coaches, Peer Advisors and Peer Tutors, and Writing Specialists in the ARC guide students in identifying strengths, managing challenges, planning courses of study, and in developing the communications skills necessary to share their artistic vision. Student Accessibility Services within the ARC ensures that students with disabilities are provided the necessary accommodations and supports that assist in their success at MassArt.
  • The Justice, Equity, and Transformation (JET) Office facilitates programmatic connections that support curricular and co-curricular retention and mentoring initiatives for students, staff, and faculty. JET support extends but is not limited to those who identify as ALAANA, BIPOC, DACA, LGBTQ, and international community members. The goals of the JET office are to guide and lead work that achieves systemic equity in all areas of the educational institution through transformation of campus culture.

MassArt has many other important offices and resources that provide student support. For more information on student support options, including the International Education Center and food resources for students, click here. You can click here for more information on mental health and wellness resources.