Today marks the first week of college for my son, a new student at Trinity University. As you can imagine, the journey to this moment has been full of cherished memories and life lessons…and now a new chapter in his life has only just begun. Whether you are sending little ones off to pre-K or running last minute errands for dorm room necessities, I wish your child a fulfilling and productive school year! Here are a few of my etiquette tips for parents to start you off on the right foot.
For Parents of a Younger Child:
- Practice the teacher’s name together. Go through different scenarios that your child will encounter and have them use their teacher’s name. “Mrs. Brown, may I use the restroom?” or “Mr. Jones, may I help pass out snacks?” Children learn to show respect by using another person’s name in conversation.
- Familiarize your child with bathroom locations. On your way to the classroom, point out the restroom(s) and water fountains. Of course, they will be given clear instructions, but your child will feel more comfortable if they know where they are going when they are in a hurry.
- Drop and go. When you walk your child to class on the first day of school, avoid lingering. It is harder on your son or daughter if you loiter and peer through the classroom window. Even older kids feel a bit anxious on the first day of school. Watching their parent circle the corridor only makes it more difficult to adjust.
- Schedule a conference.The first day, early morning, is not the right time to go over important facts about your child. If what you have to say has not already been covered on the admission forms or at the pre-conference, go online and schedule an appointment with your child’s teacher.
For Parents of Teens
- Adequate rest and a punctual first day. Arriving to class on time and prepared is a great way to begin the school year. Ultimately, it is up to your teen to make the first good impression and walking into the classroom on time is a smart initial move.
- Encourage them to exude confidence. Help your teen organize their clothing the night before. A healthy breakfast will give them an extra boost. Set the example by handling your own morning routine accordingly.
- Go over the introduction. Kids are not the only ones that need to be reminded to make eye contact and show consideration for others. Talk to your teenager about being kind to new classmates. Suggest they sit with someone new at lunch or volunteer to help a student having trouble with a sticky locker combination. Remind your teen to show courtesy in and out of the classroom.
- Discuss new school year opportunities and expectations. Let them know what you expect and provide clear guidelines about personal responsibility. They may need a little assistance when it is time to join a new club or try a new experience. Let them know that feeling apprehensive is perfectly normal. Make sure they are not overloaded with extra-curricular obligations at the expense of school work, sports, and sleep.
- Volunteer at the school. It is a good idea for parents to get involved with school functions…within reason. Your teen does not want you to be there at every corner. Teens need room to learn to become independent, but still very much require parental guidance and supervision.
For Parents of College Students
- Mom and dad, do not skip orientation. Attending parent sessions is essential in order for you to know what your kid will be experiencing, the services offered, and university expectations. While you may have to take off work, or skip a few volunteer commitments, it will be time well spent.
- Read the school emails. You will be tempted to gloss over the numerous incoming emails, but that will leave you missing out on important dates and information. Mark them on your calendar and place them at high priority. Your college student will notice and appreciate your efforts.
- Guide but do not dictate. Now is the time for your son or daughter to spread their wings. Allow them as much freedom as possible when getting their supplies, setting up their dorm room (they still want you to help!), and making decisions about classes. Let them do as much as they can on their own and offer assistance when asked.
- Get to know the campus. Arrive early and take a brief self-guided tour of the school with your college age kid. Both parents and students will feel better if they know where they are going in advance of the first day of check-in. Find out when the bookstore opens, learn the layout of the cafeteria, and discover helpful shortcuts from the math building to the science lab.
- Trust your parenting skills and all you have taught them throughout the years. Do not expect your child to drop everything they are doing to take your call. Give them space to navigate life on their own and adapt to their new college surroundings. Verbalize your confidence in them and let them know you are there when they need you. Encourage them to use the resources available on campus for support. Avoid giving them ultimatums, “If you do not get straight A’s the first semester, I am bringing you home.”
- Avoid the guilt. “You never call…” or “You do not want to come home anymore…” are fault inducers and may work against you in the long run. Remember that they cannot drop everything to make your world full. This is your opportunity to get your own life – take on a new hobby, get an exciting job, or just relax and revel in your parenting success. It is finally your time. Admittedly…it is hard to say goodbye. Do not loiter!
For more of my etiquette tips, check out my articles on The Huffington Post.