When You’re a Hope Parent and a Hope Staff Member

Jen Ryden, Jill Nelson, and Cindy Kleinheksel have a few things in common. Notably, they all serve Hope students through Campus Ministries and they all have daughters who are first-year Hope students. I asked if I could sit down with them and learn a little more about what it’s like to be both a Hope parent and a Hope staff member. Their responses may surprise you!

With all of you in mind as our audience for this conversation, I asked, “What do you wish more families knew about Hope?” Cindy was very practical, citing the cost of laundry, the necessity of a parking pass if you bring a car and the benefits of starting Hope with extra credits in your pocket from high school. Jill emphasized that there are opportunities for 1:1 interaction with staff and faculty members at every turn. Whether it’s a professor, a coach, Campus Ministries or Student Life staff, Hope is so relational. If your student is struggling, they just need to reach out and they will find support. Jen built on that sentiment saying, “You have to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask.” People will bend over backward for you, but they generally won’t know that you need help unless you ask for it.

All three women emphasized the importance of students building a positive relationship with their academic advisor. “If you have a good relationship with your advisor, they will go to bat for you!” We hope that all student-advisor pairings are great, but if you are truly not meshing with that person, you can make a change. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Next, I asked about any lessons that they learned after their college student moved out. Cindy’s response was immediate. “The importance of prayer. Your hands are tied when they’re not with you. All you can do is pray and know that God loves them more. That’s where my husband and I have grown most in our prayer life together.” Jen spoke about the importance of allowing their independence. “You have to be able to say, ‘This is something you can do. You can figure this out,’ while still making them feel supported.” Jill added, “And sometimes they will fail. And they will learn from that too.” All three women shared the impact that was felt at home after their Hope students moved out. Whether you have younger siblings grappling with that missing person, or you’re finding your footing as an empty nester, the dynamics at home are sure to change.

We closed by chatting about boundaries. Boundaries seem to be a key ingredient in a healthy relationship, even when you are sharing the same campus! Jill, Jen and Cindy each spoke to the importance of allowing their student to take the lead in setting boundaries around when they will talk or meet up. Jill mentioned Life360 and how it took some time for her to remove her daughter, which was ultimately the best decision for both of them. College students need to have some freedom to make mistakes, to ask for help and to build trust with you in this new season of life.

I wish everyone reading this could sit down and chat with Cindy, Jen, and Jill. It’s likely that your own Hope student already knows and loves them. If you think your student could benefit from personally connecting with any of these women, I hope you will encourage them to reach out.

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