When children leave home to begin college, parents need help with transitions, according to Johnne Armentrout, assistant director of the Wake Forest Counseling Center. When they drop their sons and daughters off at their residence halls, full-time parenting ends, adds Armentrout, who leads a “College Transitions” program for parents of freshmen. She helps parents understand some of the changes freshmen will experience, while encouraging them to focus on their own lives. She includes an abbreviated marriage enrichment workshop for couples and a session focused on self-discovery and the demands of parenthood for singles.
College classes might be tough, but sharing a small space with a complete stranger can be a greater challenge for college freshmen, says Connie Carson, Wake Forest director of residence life and housing. Learning to handle conflicts is key to getting through that first year with a roommate, says Carson. Differences over small issues such as staying up late or cleaning up the room can build with time unless students learn to talk them out. Wake Forest students sign an informal contract with their new roommates, which encourages them to seek peaceful resolutions to any problems.
Bring a UL-approved power strip with an extra-long cord and plenty of stackable storage items, suggests Tim Burton, associate director of residence life and housing. These are essential items that students sometimes forget. A shower bucket, a laundry bag/basket and a desk lamp are other key items that students overlook, he says. Burton also offers tips on what not to bring. Most residence halls will not allow extension cords, halogen lamps, electric skillets or hot plates, he says. Leave your pets at home, he adds.
The middle-school years are likely to be more like the Rockies than the Appalachians — big peaks and valleys,” says education professor Samuel T. Gladding. The transition from elementary school to middle school can be stressful to children and their parents, says Gladding, a nationally-recognized expert on family counseling. Faced with harder schoolwork, more homework, more than one teacher and increased peer pressure, pre-adolescents can do well, but parents can be more helpful if they are prepared for the ups and downs. He can offer many tips to parents, including setting realistic boundaries and adjusting those as the child is able to handle more responsibility. He also suggests not overreacting as a child tries on different identities to find the right one. Be prepared to hate the clothes they want to wear and try to keep a healthy sense of humor, he adds.
Establishing a good relationship with the teacher at the beginning of the school year is important particularly for parents with children entering elementary school, says Wake Forest education professor Donna Henderson. Henderson, who spent 12 years as a school counselor, offers a few suggestions to get off on the right foot. First, she says, “go in with the assumption that you and the teacher want the same thing — what’s best for the child.” She also says shared knowledge is the key. Parents can provide information about their child that will help the teacher, but parents should also listen to teachers’ observations to find out more about how their child learns. She reminds parents to recognize the teacher as a professional. If a problem occurs that can’t be resolved directly with the teacher, she suggests seeking advice from the school counselor.
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