How to let go of your college student bu today boston university

This should not come as a shock, but in case it hasn’t registered yet, your newly enrolled college student has now gained some autonomy. Yes, they still may be on your shared family phone plan, and you still pay for their health insurance, but they are capable of making their own doctor’s appointments, speaking up when their roommate is irking them, and managing stress and disappointment. And if you’re expecting BU to keep you in the loop of all these developments, and others, we’re here to let you down gently.

Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students, delivers it straight to parents during Orientation: the conversations we have here, he tells them, should (largely) be with the student, not with you. It’s his way to quell the frequent parental phone calls and emails his office receives, which cover from what to do if the dining hall is in danger of running out of food during a snowstorm to options for dorm room window treatments to financial aid matters.


Dori Hutchinson (Sargent’85,’96), a Sargent College associate clinical professor and director of services at BU’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, lives in Rich Hall as a faculty-in-residence. She reports firsthand that many parents “come to college” with their freshmen via technology, talking and texting throughout the day about every class, meeting, and assignment. “You want to promote independence in your kid, and this is part of what college is about—developing this independent life,” says Hutchinson, who is the mom of three recent college grads. “Resist texting and telephoning every day. It’s a hard thing to do if you’re not used to it. Try to do it every couple of days, at least in the beginning.”

Experienced upperclassman Claire Doire (COM’20) says it’s a really good idea to agree on a FaceTime or phone call schedule. This way, expectations are clear on both sides, and you don’t have to worry about calling in the middle of class, a meeting, or (God forbid) a party, and your son or daughter doesn’t have to feel bad about hanging up and rescheduling. Don’t panic if you don’t hear back right away

Upperclassmen especially can be more lackadaisical about returning a phone call or text. “We’re just busy trying to eat three meals a day and get to class on time and have halfway decent social lives, sleep every now and then, and maybe even hit the gym,” she says. “We’re trying, we swear.” Let your student solve problems—this means saying no when they ask for help finishing a paper or switching dorms

Hutchinson says that while it may be tempting to pitch in, your son or daughter needs to learn how to go it alone. “Going to college is a big transition—no matter how smart your child is academically, socially, and emotionally,” she says. “Parenting nowadays is about alleviating struggles, so a lot of these incoming first years lack resiliency.”

One of the ways to help your student build resiliency is to be curious, ask questions, and encourage them to use campus resources—have you checked out this issue with your RA? Have you gone to your advisor? Have you gone to the student tutoring center? Just don’t call the offices yourself looking for the answer. In fact, legally, colleges are usually not allowed to talk to parents about issues their children are having, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), federal laws governing student privacy. Remember to listen and don’t lecture

Students will make mistakes, and that’s all right. Frame it as a learning opportunity, Hutchinson says. It’s OK to get a B on a test; it’s not the end of the world. New students often feel like they can’t screw up, she says, and a lot of them are coming in at the top of their high school class, but everyone here at BU is smart, and it can be a little unsettling. “Don’t try to fix it, but normalize it,” she says. “Acknowledge that it’s hard.” Promote wellness strategies

Stress to your child that sleep is really important and they should try not to stay up until 2 or 3 every night. Promote participation in dorm activities as a way to meet people. Encourage a daily routine of eating, sleeping, and activity, because this groove helps them deal with anxiety. Something as simple as remembering to carry around a Nalgene and staying hydrated has been proven to boost energy and ward off colds, which can run rampant in a dorm’s tight quarters.