The Many Roles that College Parents Play: Emotional Supports

  "Compass" image by Walt Stoneburner, cc license Do you think of your college student as a friend? You probably do, and so does your child.

Do you think of your college student as a friend? You probably do, and so does your child.

A recent MTV research paper revealed that “68% of young Millennials agree with the statement: ‘My parents are like a best friend to me.’”

Achieving autonomy is a key part of college life. However, such an emotionally supportive, close relationship won’t hinder a student’s adjustment to life at college. In fact, that parental relationship with a student plays a key factor in helping him or her student adjust to the many difficult transitions college life can bring.

“One’s parents can serve as a source of emotional support and a ‘base from which adolescents can explore their environment and adapt to college’ (Kalsner & Pistole, p. 94). In support of this theory, Rice, FitzGerald, Whaley, and Gibbs (2001) found that parental attachment was positively related to college adjustment. Kalsner and Pistole also found that attachment was a significant predictor of college adjustment among Hispanic students.” –Predictors of College Adjustment Among Hispanic Students, Yazedjian and Toews

Parental emotional support is critical for first-generation students, according to The Influence of Parents on the Persistence Decisions of First-Generation College Students.

“The adjustment to college is stressful for first-generation students (Ishitani, 2003) who may feel isolated because they lack access to persons, including their parents, who can empathize with their feelings (Smyth, Hockemeyer, Heron, Wonderlich, & Pennebaker, 2008). It is important that they have access to a social network that has empathy with what they are experiencing (Bandura, 2004; Dyson & Renk, 2006). When a student is able to discuss anxieties with those who can relate to her situation, her stress level is reduced (Pennebaker, Colder, & Sharp, 1990). Without this outlet for stress, first-generation students can become overwhelmed by the obstacles they face in acclimating to a new college environment, all the while having parents who cannot understand their issues (Phinney & Haas, 2003). This situation may explain why first-generation college students discuss their concerns about their academic lives with their parents less than do their continuing-generation peers (Barry, Hudley, Kelly, & Cho, 2009).”

Research, then, substantiates that parents are critical emotional supports for student success. We’ll look more into just how critical this support is in our next ‘roles of college parents’ post.