By Jeanne Knox, Chairman, Parents Leadership Council
As I was reading an update from the School of Public Health this morning about a class on sexual violence turning in to a forum for discussion of the Supreme Court hearings, I was struck by BU Provost Jean Morrison’s mention of texts to her daughter, a grad student, and a call to her son, a university student, during the hearings. Great Mom, I thought, checking in and supporting in a time of potentially great stress. I myself had done the same thing last week with my kids, and I am betting you did too. And, my empathy for the Provost reminded me that we are all in this parenting thing together.
We all check in with our students for different reasons but during this time of year at BU, parents are likely checking in with their students about all the adjustments early fall requires. And, students are adjusting to a new place, a new routine, a new class schedule, new demand. This time of year can be truly stressful for any university student. It should be—this is why they are there—to grow, to learn, to navigate life on their own. They might not realize it yet, but this is why they worked so hard to get to Boston University in the first place. And it is a stressful world out there. They are facing challenges from both outside (the news of the day) and inside (feelings of loneliness, isolation, social confusion, or just plain hunger) with a new and perhaps not yet secure sense of independence. And they might be more than willing to share these feelings with (surprise!) you, the one person who really understands them. I have been on the other end of these phone calls . . . more than I care to remember, by the way . . . and have come out the other end with two successful, very independent kids and a whole load of sleepless nights.
So what’s my advice? Don’t try to make things better, just acknowledge that those feelings exist and are OK. Listening to your student talk is parental intervention in college. They are talking through their problems with a person they trust. Advise only when they ask, they usually know what they should be doing and after talking, they generally take action. Then trust your advice. The times I called back the next day and got a Mom, I handled that yesterday response make me think twice before I pick up the phone even today. Whoops, have a great day! Most importantly, give yourself a break. It is not always easy being a parent, and being a good parent is sometimes even harder. You hurt when your student hurts. I know, I do too. So talk it out yourself. Find someone who understands or has gone through it. Share the frustration of not being able to make it better, we all feel that. Reaffirm for yourself that other kids are going through the same thing. Or call the Parents Program, we are here to listen, laugh and help.
Yes, we parents are all in this together. The road to success at Boston University is long and bumpy and rewarding all at the same time. Little problems, big problems, little victories, big victories all come along at very unexpected times. Roll with it, support your student and know that in the end their future successes make those sleepless nights worthwhile. Family and Friends Weekend is October 19-21, come visit and try to spot some of that growth yourself . . . bet you will, and you will smile and celebrate those hard fought changes. The fall is always challenging around here, but we are all in this together. Remember that above all.