Tips for Parents
Supporting Students' Choices (Even When You Don't Agree)
It can be one of the most difficult aspects of your role as a parent: supporting your student's choices, even when you don't agree with them. You may have been down a similar road before yourself and hope to encourage your student to take a different path. Or you may have some guesses for what will happen as a result of the decision, which the student can't clearly see for himself. Whatever the reason, you find yourself biting your tongue and hoping for the best.
Although part of your role clearly is to advise your student, even though he is in college, you also know how important it is for him to make his own choices and to experience his own successes and mistakes. So, when you clearly don't agree with your student's choice, what can you do? Here are a few suggestions:
- Listen to your student and ask open-ended questions. As you are engaging in conversation, be sure to reflect back a summary of what your student has shared. Utilizing this technique can help your student come to his own conclusions, without you having to offer an opinion.
- Offer some of your life experience, by sharing personal stories. As you share the stories, try to make some parallels to your student's experience. With some open and honest dialogue, you may be able to help your student benefit from what you are offering.
- Be honest about your concerns. But don't get discouraged if your student doesn't follow your advice. Ultimately, it's his choice to make. The best you can do is offer your expertise and care.
Advise away this year, but try to keep yourself in check. As you well know as a parent, it can be easy to insert yourself and your values into a conversation if you don't. When in doubt, ask your student to consider three questions: How will your decision make you feel? How would you feel if your family knew about your decision? How would you feel if your decision was printed on the front page of the newspaper? These three value-loaded questions can help your student ensure that his decisions are in line with his values. And after all, this is what's most important.
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