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Family Orientation: Tips for Professionals & Parents

Eight Tips for Parent/Family Programs Professionals

  1. When programming for Parent and Family Orientation, think from the parent perspective. Consider which topics, at this moment of the year, are at top of mind for parents and families. For example, your health center representative may omit flu clinics from their presentation but talk more about how your institution handles medical emergencies.
  2. If you are the primary administrator who handles parent calls or emails during the academic year, you must be in front of the families and present on a topic, such as the transition to college. Encourage families to remember you and your staff as primary contacts for your institution through enthusiasm, presence and repetition of the resources you provide.
  3. Families want to meet the people who are responsible for the well-being and education of their students. Invite heads of campus departments, faculty and senior administrators to present. Families feel respected if your institution leaders address them.
  4. When coordinating with presenters, remind them to make their language simple and inclusive. 
  5. Where possible, make your program interactive. Talking heads are boring. For example, instead of a PowerPoint, a method of presentation might be a game, a quiz or a model class.
  6. Allow time for your families to connect to each other, this may be during scheduled breaks or meals, or potentially as a mixer toward the end of the day.
  7. Ask current family members to volunteer during Parent and Family Orientation.
  8. Train your student staff well. Talking with peers is not the same as talking with family members.

Five Tips to Share with Your Parents and Family Members 

  1. Express trust in your student’s ability to make right choices when the time comes. Let them know it is natural to have doubts and to be unsure what their major will be or how they will adapt to college life. 
  2. Don’t overreact to mood changes or seemingly irresponsible behavior. Your student’s anxieties about the first year of college might be the cause.
  3. You know your student best: If mood changes are excessive and if depression is the prevailing mood, seek the help of professionals. Counseling might help put this big transition in your student’s life into perspective.
  4. Focus on important matters. Talk with your student about five major topics: academic expectations, money matters, social choices, and communication.
  5. Guide, don’t direct. Rather than expressing your opinion about the best careers or academic choices, ask your student probing questions. When students own their decisions, they will grow and mature.
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