Parent to Parent: How do we help our students in the summer?

Written By: Amy Freehafer, Senior Academic and Career Advisor

Hard to believe the 2018-2019 school year is coming to a close! If you are like me, you have mixed feelings about your student returning home for the summer. In my own experience, as much as I looked forward to this time it was not without its challenges. For me, it was that my child did not come home because she was busy taking on internships each summer. Because she wanted to gain experience in her field (engineering) it also meant she never really had down time over the five years she was in undergrad. I write this post to help both students and their parents make the summer time a positive experience!

In my work with students, I find they have considerable anxiety about the summer months. Worried they will not be making the best use of their time, getting behind in their preparation for career path, and even scared to tell family and friends they do not yet know what they want to do with their lives. Here are some things I found helpful as a parent and use in my work with students here at Hope:

  • Ask open ended questions: “How was your first year at Hope?” “What were the highs and lows?” “What are you excited for this coming year?” “What are you most interested in learning about” When we ask questions vs. making statements it helps our students critically think and keeps us open to extended conversation and ways to connect.
  • Students feel a lot of pressure to live up to high expectations they believe we have as parents. Help lighten that for them by expressing how proud you are of them getting through this year (maybe first year) of college. Ask how you can be more supportive in the process of being a student.
  • Connect your student to your friends and family and suggest they shadow a few people over the summer. You want to choose those who will give your student a good experience and be honest with them about the ins and outs of their work. This will also help them begin their own professional network and see what is out there.
  • Suggest they consider working on a resume, see the handout on our website, begin working on their LinkedIn profile, or work on their Handshake account and explore opportunities for internships and jobs in the future.
  • Not everyone needs to do an internship this summer! Some students are not there yet. Help your student understand that any work experience is professional experience and support what they decide to do. Help them see the skills they are building no matter what the experience is. If they are interning, help them reflect on the experience.
  • I learned that my daughter often took on too much and felt the need to perform at a high level in everything. Many Hope students feel that way too. I found it helpful to start conversations with “What can I take off your plate or give you permission to remove?” Followed up by “What can you give yourself permission to let go of?” This helped her learn how to move from relying on me to relying on herself.

Use this time to understand your student, appreciate the connection you are making, and help them see the major/career discernment process is just that, a process. We did not have it all figured out at 18 or 20. Let them see that and it will help them relax and head down their path with support!

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1 Comment

  1. So timely and helpful! My freshman has such mixed emotions about coming home this summer after such a fantastic year – lots of emotions to navigate, Thank you for the excellent advice!

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