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Guide for Parents
Welcome, parents! This section will provide information and resources for parents, friends, and family of MassArt students to increase their understanding of common psychological issues 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, having a child go 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 Counseling Services recognize that these concerns are common to many parents and family members. We hope this page will provide some helpful answers to these important questions.
MassArt Counseling focuses on assisting students with the typical developmental problems of undergraduate and graduate students that respond to short-term counseling. If a student requires long term care or has a chronic mental health condition, then Counseling Services will help the student find suitable care in the off-campus professional community.
Consultation to Families
Counseling Services provides consultation to families who have questions or concerns about a student. We will provide as much assistance as possible. Due to confidentiality laws, however, we may not be able to provide information about your student if she or he is utilizing our services. Please call the Director of Counseling, Dr. Betsy Smith, Psy.D., at 617.879.7761 if you would like a consultation about your student.
How is my young adult doing?
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?
As mentioned, there is a normal period of adjustment to college that includes both excitement and stress. Sometimes this adjustment can be as long as 6 months to a year. However, if over time you notice that your child is not coping well (e.g., is not acting like their "normal self," grades are declining, withdrawal from family and friends), you may consider suggesting that they seek assistance from a counselor at Counseling Services.
How am I doing with the change?
It is not uncommon for parents to experience the well-known "empty nest" syndrome when their child leaves for college. They may have feelings of sadness, loss of control, and concern for what their children may be exposed to at an urban art college. At the same time, many parents may feel conflicted when these feelings are mixed with excitement that comes with possibly having more independence and time. It is common to feel a wide range of emotions with this new change - from happy to sad. As is the case with your daughter/son, the adjustment to change can be difficult and may take some time.
What can I expect over the next few years?
Parents are evolving their relationship as adolescents began to emerge as young adults. This is a new and important way of connecting with them as they transition to adulthood. You can convey to your child that you are aware of, and appreciate this transition, as well as providing opportunities to relate to them in new ways. Parents can consider developing an adult relationship with their child. This is a new and important way of connecting with them, as it recognizes and acknowledges the transition of your student from child to adult. This will convey to them that you are aware and appreciate this transition, as well as provide opportunities to relate to 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 would like or are used to, it is actually developmentally appropriate as your student gains a greater sense of identity and self.
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.
What resources are available for me and my student?
There are many resources available to you and your student. It is helpful for parents to be familiar with our services at Counseling and Wellness as well as other available resources at MassArt. The Academic Resource Center offers information and advising that compliments faculty advising. Here, you can get answers to your questions regarding graduation and degree requirements, leave policies and discussions of academic problems or issues. Also available in the Academic Resource Center is consultation with a learning specialist for academic accommodations, tutoring, and coaching.
The following list was adapted by Brian L. Watkins, Director of Parent and Family Affairs, from "20 Items I Wish I Could Discuss with the Families of All Students" by Michael J. Kiphart, Dean of Student Affairs, Carroll Community College.
- If you were puzzled by your children in high school, you will certainly be confused by them when they are in college; if you were not puzzled by your children in high school, you are in for a real experience while they are in college
- Be prepared for differences in your relationship with your son or daughter
- Home visits will be very different than when the student lived at home
- Learn to let go. They are making their own way and will make mistakes
- If your student is living at home while in college, learn to let go and make sure you give your student his or her own time and space
- Learn to listen to your son or daughter. Try to understand their point of view, even if it changes back and forth right before your eyes
- Talk to and with your son or daughter, not at him or her. Afford your children the same respect that you expect and require from them
- When your student calls home unexpectedly and in a panic, don't panic yourself. Give it a day and call back
- Keep your son or daughter informed of happenings at home. And, if there are problems at home, assure your child that it is not his or her fault, or that being away from home did not contribute to the problems
- During the first year or two, try not to press your student about what he or she is going to do after college or with the rest of his or her life
- If your son or daughter decides to change majors, be supportive and helpful. Recommend that your student makes the most informed decision possible, using all manner of resources at his or her disposal
- If your student stops or wants to change schools, talk to, assure, compliment, and help him or her make the most informed decision
- Please do not compete with your student or have your student compete with his or her peers
- Don't blame the University for your student's behavior, and we at the University will try not to blame you for your student's behavior
- Keep in touch. Write your child a letter or send a funny card when least expected or for no reason at all. Email is great, but text messaging is an even more effective way to reach your student
- If you intend to visit campus, let your student know you are coming. Surprises can work both ways, and usually not for the better
- Understand the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, and its impact
- Working together-student, parents, family, staff, and faculty-we can achieve and accomplish the most out of a MassArt education for everyone involved