Orientation Weekend: Parents Transition

It’s a constant refrain this time of year. “Mom and Dad, back away from the dorm room.” After 18 years taking care of little Johnny, parents are suddenly expected to drop them off at college, hop back in the car, and drive home. These are tense moments for some parents, and colleges are learning to negotiate them tactfully, according to an article in The New York Times.

One school has an official Parting Ceremony in which students march through the gates at the entrance of the school. Once the last student has passed through, the gates swing closed with the parents shut out.

Parents might wonder what they have just agreed to foot the bill for when a school so explicitly closes the door on their involvement. On the other hand, some colleges just can’t shake those so-called “helicopter parents” always ready to get their kid’s parking pass, arrange their schedules, and help out with class assignments.

The Times writes, “As the latest wave of superinvolved parents delivers its children to college, institutions are building into the day, normally one of high emotion, activities meant to punctuate and speed the separation. It is part of an increasingly complex process, in the age of Skype and twice-daily texts home, in which colleges are urging “Velcro parents” to back off so students can develop independence.”

Trinity, of course, has extremely well adjusted students and parents, able to smoothly transition to this new phase in life while also welcoming appropriate parental involvement. Still, says Heather Sammons, assistant dean of students for Trinity College, orientation weekend has a couple of opportunities for moms and dads to mark the passage into life without little Johnny.

Sunday lunch with the president is a chance for parents to meet other parents and talk with faculty and staff—including the president. “Parents are able to talk with their staff table host and ask the president any question they have,” Heather says. “They are also given a parent e-mail address: [email protected] to address concerns they have.” Later that day is a dedication ceremony in which faculty welcome students and offer a prayer for their time at college. It’s perhaps a subtle hint for parents to get ready to say goodbye, but more importantly the service provides an example of the many ways students are cared for and mentored in their new home.

All seems to have gone well this weekend at Trinity. Parents are back home, and students are getting to know one another through local service projects today. With classes starting tomorrow, the transition to college is almost over. Time to hit the books!