As a Catholic, Norbertine, and liberal arts institution, St. Norbert College places special emphasis on the sacred dignity of all persons and the spirit of communio.

Guiding Your Student to Independence

As students transition from children to adults, how do you keep abreast of what is going on in their lives, especially if they aren’t very communicative?  It is common for parents to inquire about their student’s well being. Here are a few tips:

Keeping Informed
Before you contact college staff members, consider the following:
  • When students take on the legal status of “adults”, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), governs how St. Norbert College staff members deals with student records. This federal law does not allow us to share any part of a student’s record with anyone without student’s written consent. This includes student conduct records, academic records, and any records pertaining to student housing. The only exception is in an emergency.
  • Denied access can be difficult to comprehend, particularly for parents who pay for their student’s education.
  • It is important for your student to be the primary source of the information that you receive. Encourage them to communicate openly and honestly with you about issues involving their education. This is a critical skill to develop and helps build trust and respect between parents and students.
Emotional Support
  • College can be frustrating. For many, it is a time of confusing relationships, redefined friendships and transitions. Many have a hard time at first.
  • Students have a tendency to call parents when they are having an emotionally difficult day. Many choose to share positive experiences with their friends and a higher proportion of the negative experiences with parents.
  • You can provide a listening ear for negative and positive experiences by making a point to ask about the good things that are going on. Students need reminding about the positive aspects of their college experience to develop and help build trust and respect between parents and students. 
Room for Mistakes
  • Students will make mistakes as they negotiate what it means to be an adult. Some mistakes are more detrimental than others, and many will be important life lessons.
  • The natural inclination is to correct a student when they head toward an unwise choice. While this is understandable, the end result may be that the student does not learn how to make that decision independently.
  • We ask that parents discuss the options and allow room for students to make their own decisions. By making the wrong choice and dealing with the consequences, students learn to make better choices in the future.
  • Trust Issues often come up. Parents who have been involved in their children’s lives are no longer involved on a daily basis. Parents wonder what the student is doing when they haven’t heard from them. In addition to safety concerns, they worry about choices being made in other areas.
  • Our experience indicates that students occasionally make unwise choices, but most maintain their value system and the skills necessary to make smart decisions.
  • Due to advances in communication technology, students and parents stay in touch on a daily basis. This is different than in previous years, when a phone call once a week and the occasional letter or package from home was all the contact students had with their families.
  • New technologies make it easy to remain close but have had a negative effect on student development. Student’s who maintain close contact with family and friends from home often do not fully engage in the college experience.
  • Cell phones, email, and instant messaging can be a “crutch” for students who are not comfortable in their new environment. By filling their time with people from home, they avoid the difficult task of making new friends and establishing relationships.
  • Parents can help by maintaining a “healthy distance” and encouraging students to utilize the resources and people at St. Norbert for interaction and solutions.
  • Effectively guiding your student to independence will be very rewarding!


* Taken from “Guiding Your Students to Independence,” provided by UCSB Housing and Residential Services, 2005.