Optimal Parent Involvement

Like many of us, I spent the last few weeks of the summer leading our New Parent Orientation, responding to Facebook posts (what size sheets to they need again?), or speaking to parents on the phone.  While their inquiries vary, I really feel that they are all asking one basic question.  How am I supposed to do this?   How do I both stay involved and detach myself?  How do I support them when I don’t see them every day? What should I do when they encounter a struggle?  My experience is that while students seem nervous at the beginning of their time in college, the parents are even more nervous about the transition—their own transition to parent of a college student. 

On my campus at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), our team is also responsible for New Student Orientation.  We spend quite a bit of time on talking about how to be a college student.  We talk about wellness decisions, academic decisions, and time management decisions.  We also talk about decisions to avoid in order to be successful.  What struck me this year especially is how little “coaching” we do for parents in this way. We certainly help them meet each other, and provide them resources and respond to their questions, but what more could we do to help them?  

This question began my thinking about our role as educators for parents as well as for students.  How can we not only partner with parents, but help them grow into the partner that we think will be the most effective in supporting their student?  I think there are many opportunities here, from orientation and beyond, but the first step I believe is identifying the elements of a good parent/student relationship.  While we all have anecdotal stories of the over-involved parent, most of us agree that by-in-large, parents are involved in their students’ lives in a way that they believe will not only lead to success, but foster developmental growth.  Most are eager for help in answering the “how am I supposed to do this?” question.  And we are uniquely qualified to help them.

Attached is an article that continues the discussion of defining the optimal parental involvement.  While there have been many articles, both scholarly and otherwise, that have been written about the subject, our profession has never coalesced around a definition or set of principles that would help guide our parent partners.  I encourage us all, as AHEPPP members, to think about setting such standards as a goal for our organization.

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