Parents and Families

Information for New Parents and Families

From the Dean of Students Nancy Thompson

May 2013

Dear Parents,

I am pleased to welcome your family to the Hamilton family! As the parent of a Hamilton student, you will be an important part of this community, and we in the Dean of Students office hope to forge the best possible partnership with you in order to make the next four years a success for your child. Sending a son or daughter off to college for the first time is an important milestone and often bittersweet. We want to work with you to ease that transition.

The webpage for new parents and families contains information we hope you find helpful as you plan for the upcoming year.

The Family Information Contact Form, which is located on the last page of the booklet mailed to new parents in June, can be completed online. In addition to confirming your general contact information, we ask that you provide us with your preferred email address, as this is the means through which we will communicate important information.

For both parents and students, the college years are wonderful when all is going well. As the parent of a college student myself, I know nothing feels better than hearing my child say, “I love it here.” But these four years will be a time of challenge and personal growth, and sometimes there will be bumps in the road. It’s good to remember that while these bumps can be jarring, they often teach some of life’s important lessons.

In the first year, students may be challenged by higher academic expectations, the frustration of roommate conflicts and even occasional loneliness. Those who draw on their own resources to find solutions will be rewarded with increased self-confidence and the tenacity to handle future problems. Likewise, parents who respect this process will be rewarded with the knowledge that they have raised independent thinkers who can cope and succeed in a new environment.

When challenges arise, students will naturally turn to their parents for guidance. When this happens, you have an opportunity to point your child toward the appropriate campus resource or to talk about the conversations the student might want to have with a professor, roommate or coach. The well-timed arrival of a package of homemade cookies — large enough to share — can also work wonders. You might remind your student of a time when he or she succeeded under challenging circumstances and express your confidence in his or her ability to do so again and again.

As a parent, I know how strong the temptation is to fix the problem myself. Like you, I am learning to resist that temptation. On occasion, I have had to remind myself that, though the going may be occasionally rough, success and competence are achieved through my child’s hard work — not mine.

Below are some typical situations we see here in the Dean of Students office, with suggested ways in which you and your student can work through them successfully.

  • A student performs poorly on an exam and calls home upset and disappointed. As a parent, you might suggest that he or she speak soon with the professor to find out how to do better next time and to discuss study skills that may help. Your student’s faculty advisor is another valuable resource, or you might suggest seeking assistance from the Peer Tutoring Center. Approaching professors and accessing resources encourage the student to take ownership of the problem and find solutions to remedy it.
  • A student is not getting along with a roommate and wants to move out right away. Here, a good resolution can come from your student talking with the roommate (with advice from you, perhaps, about words to use) or asking the Resident Advisor or a staff member in Residential Life to help both roommates work through the issues. Negotiating differences is often preferable to moving out and can be a good exercise in conflict resolution.
  • If the student is having trouble meeting people or making friends, you may want to suggest getting involved with clubs, intramural sports, volunteer programs or other options. Our online student activities page can be a useful resource. Your student also might seek advice from an RA, Orientation Leader or someone in the Dean of Students office; we are always happy to talk with students. We know that students who actively try to create their own happiness will carry this positive pattern through adulthood.

There may be a point at which you feel the need to speak with someone at the College [important contacts] about a challenge your student is facing. This letter is not intended to discourage you from placing that call. No one knows your child better than you do, and you should trust your instincts about when to seek advice and assistance. Please understand, however, that our conversation may focus on the ways you can help your student to resolve the issue, rather than on what we will do to resolve it for him or her. We don’t want to deprive any student of a valuable learning experience. If you are ever unsure about whether or not to call someone at the College, please do pick up the phone and we’ll talk it through.

In closing, my colleagues and I in the Division of Student Life look forward to working in partnership with you with the goal of helping your student toward greater maturity and independence. Hamilton is grateful for the faith that you have placed in your child and in this institution. Together, we can make these next four years truly transformative.

Warm regards,

Nancy R. Thompson
Dean of Students