Student Counseling Center

Love 'em and Leave 'Em: Letting Go Tips For Parents

The staff of the Hampton University Student Counseling Center welcomes you, our newest "HIU" family members, to this awesome Home by the Sea. Congratulations on your accomplishment of guiding your young women and men to the Hampton University "education for life" launch pad. To help you through this transition, we have prepared a few tips. As you go through this much anticipated transition, you may have mixed feelings – joy and irritation, grief and relief, confidence and worry . . . you name it. Honor them, speak on them in truth and love, then feel free to hug, kiss and wave goodbye. Thank you for entrusting them to us – we deem it an honor and privilege to be available to assist you and them through this passage.


Get comfortable with surrendering control. The University expects students to become their own managers. This means that they must learn to be pro-active. Hamptonians must be able to get themselves up and out each morning without those wake-up calls, get to classes on time every day, complete all assignments on time, learn to balance work and play, keep track of all official documents (leave all original documents and Orientation Calendar with your students), meet all deadlines, and make use of campus resources such as the Students Counseling Center. Privacy and confidentiality policies prohibit disclosure of some types of information about your 18 and older children without a written release of information from them.

"So... who am I if I am not closely guiding and protecting this child?"

  • Upgrade taking care of yourselves.
  • Try a new project or interest.
  • Talk to your students about what it is like for you to make changes in the way you have carried out your role with him/her, then, get on with it.
  • If you are one of the many who are quite challenged by letting go, lean on your own peer support system(s).

Be available, but do not intrude. Let your children take the lead in the frequency, length and type of communication. Remember that you are building an adult-adult relationship. Try not to take distance / silence personally. Start conversations on an upbeat note. Keep a list of important conversation items near the phone so that you can raise them in an orderly way. Make a note of outcomes and/or decisions. They may become useful reminders later on. On the other end of the spectrum, help your student to scale back frequency if there are multiple calls daily.

Avoid burdening your students with problems at home over which they has no control. Students may worry excessively and feel guilty about being here rather than at home helping. If your child has been your confidante, this is a perfect time to free him/her of that responsibility. You may need the assistance of counseling to help transition to a more appropriate way of relating.

If there is news that your students must be given, try not to give it at night. It will interfere with sleep, yet there is nothing they can do about the situation. Sadly, deaths of family members and friends do occur. When you must inform by phone, you may request assistance from the Counseling Center.

Do not call or text during class and study times.

If you have children still at home, monitor your expressions of loss or grief so that they don't feel emotionally neglected. Two tips from college students themselves: do not expect or pressure your Hamptonian to include siblings in their college activities; and PLEASE have a welcoming and private space for them when they return at break times.

"These are the best years of your life." It's what we all say to our college students. The University is prepared to help make it so. Sometimes, these years – especially the transitional freshman year – feel like the worst year(s). Be a shoulder to cry on and listen non-judgmentally. Resist trying to solve the problem(s), even though every fiber in your being may be longing to be super Mom, Dad, Grandmother, etc. to the rescue – just this last time. Helping to sort through options is very constructive for problem-solving and decision making, and students get much satisfaction from being able to work things out. If it is clear that s/he is in debilitating crisis, give a reminder that the Counseling Center is here to help. Resident and Graduate Assistants can assist in making contact and following through. You also may alert us.

Regarding social networking, many of us are troubled by constant social networking's negative impact on students' critical thinking, personal problem-solving and decision making abilities. Encourage your students to think for themselves before seeking others' opinions. Put in a plug for cherishing privacy and discretion.

Be specific and realistic about what you will and will not pay for, and your expectations about how the money you do provide will be spent. If you fuss and cuss, then send more money, what is the real message you are sending along with the dollars?

Send care packages – snacks, quarters, news clippings, flowers, inspirational sayings, pictures and photos, etc.

Encourage your students to get to know professors and vice versa by participating in class discussions, stopping by their desks on the way out of class to express appreciation for a good session, and visiting them during their office hours, or making an appointment if schedules conflict. It conveys interest in the course, and will help professors to make a personal connection with the students, which can be very useful later on.

Ask about courses and what things are being learned rather than about grades. Students spend incredible amounts of time and emotional energy calculating grades and "what (I) need to get on this test, or in this course." Moreover, "get" thinking undermines accountability and responsibility for the disciplined, academic labor required for earning the desired grades.

Encourage your students to get involved in co-curricular activities – an academic club, service project, social or self-expression group, etc. This will promote broadening networks and developing new skills and strengths.

Support rather than dominate your Hampton student's decision making about choosing a major even if you don't get it, or would prefer something else. Students genuinely suffer when they are in unsuitable majors. Some self-sabotage, which wastes time, money and soul.

If your child has a mental health history (including ADHD, depression, problems with alcohol / drugs, and 'acting out') do not assume that college will somehow cause it to resolve itself, or that s/he will grow out of it. Include this information on the Medical Form, and be sure your student knows where the Counseling Center is located. If s/he is on medication, emphasize the critical importance of continuing to take it. This time of change is not the time to discontinue its stabilizing function. The University Testing Services/Office of Compliance and Disability Services is available to assist with securing accommodations for eligible students.

"Don't worry; be happy." Sometimes it is easier to get into an argument than to say goodbye. When it is drop-off time, "don't sweat the small stuff," breathe and relax your facial muscles into smiles. Your brain will take the hint and help you to feel the smile in your heart.

Remember that we are here to help, and can be reached 24-7.