For Families: Changing Role of Families
Privacy and the College Student
According to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), college students are considered responsible adults and are allowed to determine who will receive information about them. If you would like to have access to college records, your child will need to give permission for you to access his/her records by filing a FERPA Student Consent form. Or, if you claim your son or daughter as a dependent on your Internal Revenue tax forms, you are allowed to view elements of your child's education record such as class schedule, grades, and dates of attendance; to gain access, you have to complete and submit the Parental Affidavit for Academic Information form. Of course, the student can always share their information directly with you at any time.
These forms will give you access to your student’s records, but college policy and practice will still make it unlikely that college professors will expect to talk to you. The relationship in college is between the professor and the student, and it is important for families to honor this as much as possible. Although this can be a difficult transition for you and for your daughter or son, it is a critical step on the road to increased independence. It is critical that they learn as much as possible to speak up and advocate for themselves. You may witness your student struggling at times, but please try to squelch the urge to "rescue" your son or daughter and allow him/her to resolve issues. You can foster growth and independence by encouraging your son/daughter to talk to his/her professors and use the resources on campus.
If concerns arise, it is better to speak to the program staff rather than going directly to faculty. Your concerns will be most effectively dealt with in this way.
Providing Information and Learning from Mistakes
Although your role as a parent is changing, you are also an “expert” on what works and what doesn’t for your son or daughter. It is perfectly okay, and very helpful, for you to say to the college early on “Ask me what I think is important for you to know about my kid.”
Parents need and should have a chance to express their fears, as well as give tips on what has been successful in the past. If you have this conversation, college programs are not left in the position of trying to anticipate issues and solve them without the context and background that parents can provide.
Finally, it is important to remember that college students learn by trying new things, and sometimes failing—but learning from those “failures.” Don’t jump in to rescue your student. Let him make the mistake—even though you may see it coming. Remember that this can be a positive experience. Try to find some successes in the experience. What did she do right? Did he handle the situation well? Did she show integrity and honesty in admitting to the mistake? Look at the positives. As college parents, it is important that we recognize that our students will make mistakes. It is difficult to watch, but it is through many of these mistakes that our college students will grow and mature.