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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

College transition is tough on parents, too

Thursday, July 31, 2008

(Photo)

Mollie Landers, Staff

Andi Schetter (left) and her mother Kathy pack away dorm supplies for Andi's upcoming move to Missouri State University.

SIKESTON -- While making the move to college can be a big transition for students, it can be just as big of a change for their parents and family members.

Kathy Schetter's younger daughter, Andi, will head to Missouri State University in Springfield in a few weeks, where her older daughter, Ashley, will be a senior this fall.

"Part of it is easier because I know what to expect, but it's harder having an empty nest," she said. Schetter said that Andi even considered going to Southeast Missouri State because she didn't want to leave her mom at home.

Kelly Williams, whose daughter, Tate, will attend SEMO in the fall, said she expects the hardest part of the transition to be saying goodbye to her daughter for the first time. But as hard as saying goodbye will be, Williams still has confidence in her daughter.

"I know she'll be fine," she said. "She knows who she is, she knows her morals and beliefs. If she sticks to those she'll be fine," Williams said.

Andrea Harper is also confident in her new college student.

"I think she can handle it," Harper said. "But I think she's going to miss home more than she thinks." Harper's oldest daughter, Alli, will attend Truman State University in the fall.

"I'm excited that she's getting to do what she wants to do, but I'm nervous that she's going to be six hours away from home and on her own," Harper said.

Theresa Haug Belvin, assistant director for new student programs at Southeast Missouri State University, noted that it's important for parents and their new college students to have conversations about what their expectations are for them at college for everything from grades to extracurricular activities.

"We want the parent and student to be on the same page with what their expectations are and to keep lines of communication open," she said.

Leon Book, director of student transitions and the first year experience at SEMO, said Southeast offers several different programs specifically designed for family members of new students at "First STEP" (Southeast Testing and Enrollment Program), the university's new student orientation program. Presentations are made by the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Student Life and other branches of the university.

"The family members have ample opportunity during the day to get their questions answered," Book said.

There is also a session during First STEP strictly for family members.

"A parent talks to the parents about empty nest syndrome, helping the student become independent and helping parents become independent of the student," Book said.

The parent speaker instructs the parents to help their students solve problems on their own by asking them what they are going to do about the situation, rather than give their own 2 cents. Book noted that problem solving is part of the maturation process and students need to learn how to solve their own problems.

"Help their children think through the problem, come to a decision on their own and to handle it because this is what professionals do. I tell first years (students), 'act professional like the professional you aspire to be,'" Book said.

Book said it's important for parents not to abandon the student, but to realize the student is ultimately responsible for what he or she does.

SEMO also helps parents stay connected by sending out e-newsletters a few times a semester, Book said. These help let family members know what's going on around campus, from financial aid deadlines to information about Family Weekend and football games.

"We know that a supportive family network is so very helpful in students' success," he said.