Parents, Families, and Friends

Parent Orientation

Material that may assist you to better support your students at university:

Parents frequently ask “What can I do to support my child?” or “What things should we be prepared for?” While every family relationship is unique, we’ve observed some common themes over the years and hope you find the following suggestions helpful:

  • Keep a list of campus resources and contact numbers stuck on the fridge, so you can refer them to those nearby who can assist them. If you think that a weekend visit would benefit them (or you), there’s on-campus hotel accommodation at the UBC Conferences and Accommodation’s West Coast Suites.
  • Show concern about their lives and understand their struggles. Ask questions, but try not to invade their privacy. Often students will let you know what is happening, but at their own pace and timing.
  • Remember your young adult has joined the ranks of the “best of the best” at UBC, and the academic expectations are rigorous. It is normal for students with high-school marks in the 80’s and 90’sto see them drop to the 60’s and 70’s. Initially, this may come as a shock to both you and your student. Your student is experiencing a difficult life transition from high school to university, both in and out of the classroom. It is typical for marks to go down in first year, so don’t let your student get depressed; instead, encourage them to get help. Students who seek a little assistance typically get back on track and do fine.
  • Write letters or use e-mail if you have it. But don’t hang over the mailbox waiting for one in return! Students are curious about what you are up to, though they may be less inclined to let you know what they are doing.
  • You may have fond memories of your own time as a student, but be careful about rhapsodizing about university as the best years of one’s life. For a student who may be struggling with exams, papers, and worries about a career, this can be of little comfort and sometimes downright irritating.
  • Pick up a copy of College Smarts: The Survival and Success Guide for Canadian Students by Catherine Dougan and Dr. Don Dougan. The Dougans have sent seven of their own kids to university and are psychologists–and include tips for parents throughout their book.
  • Parents can be supportive and trusting. Encourage independence, but provide a safety net.
  • Accept that you won’t know every detail of your child’s life. You may not have known it before, and now you may know even less. Or you might have been very close before and you may sense a change as your child seeks his or her independence.
  • Understand that your child may have difficulties returning home on holidays after experiencing life on his or her own. For the last several months they’ve been accustomed to having to be concerned about only their own daily routine, not the family’s, and they’ve lived without the former house rules that may have been in existence. Sometimes they come home with new expectations for family members. It’s a transition time for everyone.
  • Be prepared for “the phone call”. Often it comes just after midterms or near the end of first term, when work is piling up, marks aren’t what they’d hoped, they’re feeling overwhelmed and their coping skills begin to fail. They’re upset and chances are they’re going to call you. Don’t panic: remember that this is normal, and as much as you’d like to alleviate their stress, you cannot (and should not) “fix this” for them. They will rely on you to be calm, and to reassure them of their ability to successfully work through the challenge(s). Encourage them to seek help from student resources.
  • Stock up on favourite foods when they come home for the holidays and be sure to have plenty of laundry detergent on hand for all that dirty wash.
  • Send food and care packages, a sure sign of support and concern. You’ve no idea how excited students get when these arrive!
  • Be knowledgeable about campus resources. Ask your child to let you read the materials that come to them in the mail as they’re preparing to begin at UBC. Check out the Academic Year in the beginning pages of the UBC Calendar, so you’re aware of significant times of the year. If they’re living in residence, read the Resident Handbook, Residence Contract, and Reznet Service Agreement enclosed with their residence assignment. You’ll find a wealth of information about campus and residence resources, services and staff.

By Janice Robinson, Assistant Director ResidenceLife, UBC Housing and Conferences. With many thanks to: Tamsen Tillson, Canadian Living; Virginia Galt, The Globe and Mail; Centre for New Students at the University of Western Ontario; Janet Teasdale, UBC First Year Coordinator.