UK class for parents of incoming student helps with separation

During a summer advising conference last month, W.C. Corbin of Lexington and daughter Carli discussed the classes Carli planned to take in the fall as a University of Kentucky freshman.
During a summer advising conference last month, W.C. Corbin of Lexington and daughter Carli discussed the classes Carli planned to take in the fall as a University of Kentucky freshman.

The University of Kentucky stands tall as the champion of research, and a place where the mysteries of life are studied and resolved, including how to turn a helicopter parent into a patient nurturer.

During summer advising conferences, which are being held through Wednesday, the UK Parent Association is presenting a one-day course to enlighten parents on what their college students will be experiencing as freshmen.

"We wanted to share with parents what resources, what services are available to students through the dean's office," said Nancy Stephens, who facilitates the Parent Association as assistant director of new student and parent programs.

The course — DS 101: Introduction to the Dean of Student's Office and Student Success — is presented in the format of a college class complete with a syllabus, pop quizzes and a final. All parents of incoming freshmen at UK when the fall term begins are eligible to attend while their children are registering for classes.

"One of the best things parents can take away from the class is the knowledge of what parents can expect from their student in the fall," Stephens said. "We talk about transition, adjustment issues, homesickness and times of the semester when stress can be the highest. Being the parent of a college student is a different experience from being the parent of a high school student. Their role is more like a coach whose job is to support, but not necessarily to step in and solve, their student's problems for them."

Becky Jordan, who began the Parent Association in 1991, said the university saw the need for the group after realizing two things.

"Parents could be a great ally in helping students succeed during their first year, by being able to make referrals to academic resources," Jordan said. "The university also recognized that the parent-student relationship was changing. Parents were closer to their children, they were communicating more, and we wanted to harness that relationship and use it to help them succeed."

For some parents, it's been years since they've been in the college classroom; others might not have gone to college.

"The parents who have college experience often at least know where to start if their student has a problem," Stephens said.

Jordan has encountered some extreme helicopter parenting scenarios, including a dad who called the Parent Association to ask for help in breaking up his daughter and her boyfriend.

W.C. Corbin, a UK parent and alum who had just come from the most recent DS 101 course, was a little more reasonable than that dad. Corbin, whose daughter Carli will start UK in the fall, said parents should look at sending their kids to college as the beginning of their children's careers.

"The main thing I've learned, is like we told her, they're not in high school anymore, they are going to be responsible for time management and educational priorities," he said.

Corbin, who lives in Lexington, has encouraged Carli to rush for a sorority, because, for him, being part of a fraternity during his undergrad experience was a major motivator.

"I got in a fraternity, and it really helped me with my grades because there were a lot of people to study with and ask questions, and it got me more involved with campus life," he said.

Carolynn Ballew of Naperville, Ill., who will become a UK parent in the fall when daughter Katie Ballew starts school, said it's hard for parents to let go, but she realizes she has to.

"If you've done your job, they should be ready. ... You continue parenting, just more from the back seat, but parents who think that way still get teary-eyed," Ballew said.

"It's a very hard transition to let go," she added, "but it's as important to let go as it is to hold on when they're younger."

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