Local authors have advice for parents of college-bound children

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Warwick authors Laurie Hazard, ED.D and Stephanie Carter, M.A., have seen and heard a lot in their years working with students at the college level. They’ve most recently put their heads together on their latest project, a book for parents whose children are about to go off to college. The book, “Your Freshman is Off to College: A month-by-month-guide to the first year,” is modeled after the month-by-month guides that are offered for parents who are expecting a baby, or who are raising a toddler. As parents of teens approaching the college years themselves, both Carter and Hazard were familiar with those types of parenting books from their early parenting years. They’ve also both seen a gradual shift in the types of parent interactions taking place at the college level as the years gone by.

“When I was first working in higher education, there was no interaction with parents at all,” said Hazard. “Towards the end of my tenure at my first job at Boston University, there were more interactions with parents, more parent phone calls. One day I was sitting and watching first child playing on the beach, and I was thinking about the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, and how there was also “What to Expect in the First Year,” and “What to Expect in the Toddler Years” book, and it crossed my mind that we should write a tongue-in-cheek book for parents of the college-aged child, a kind of month-by-month guide for them, but that idea was shelved for a long time as I then had my second child.”

It was while working at Bryant University that Carter and Hazard cross paths, working on a project together.

“I knew that if I was going to get a book project done, it had to be collaborative. I needed to be accountable to someone,” said Hazard. “Stephanie and I had worked well together and I asked her if she would be interested in working on the book together.”

Carter was working at Bryant in the tutoring center and from time to time would have interactions with parents through open house and orientation types of events and noticed a pattern to their concerns. She too, felt that a book such as the one Hazard was now proposing given the changes they were seeing with parent interaction, not a tongue in cheek book, but a more serious look at the college journey, would be timely.

Putting parents at ease

“Many parents are nervous,” Carter said. “They want to make sure their students are successful, and they want to know how to best support them. They’re so conflicted; there is such a stigma to over-stepping the boundaries. We thought that by writing the book we’d be able to put parents’ minds at ease, to give them advice, help them to navigate the whole process.”

Both Carter and Hazard knew that parents’ concerns often stemmed from the fact that they may not have gone to college, or may not have gone away to college, or may just have had very different experiences in the process than their own child might now be having.

“Parent involvement has really increased, partly due to the rising costs of education,” said Hazard. “In many cases they’re protecting their investment. The media has played into the parents’ concerns, calling out the Helicopter parents as being too over-protective, and we have definitely seen the detrimental side effects of Helicopter parenting. Parents need to know how to help their children, but from a healthy distance. The latest research does show that a certain amount of help does help kids get through their college years, but the question becomes how to help support these parents so that they know how to help in the most effective way possible.”

Carter and Hazard published their book in October 2016, after eight years of hard work and the feedback has been positive, which they attribute to the fact that they had college students, parents and higher education professionals all take a look at it before publication, giving feedback that played into the revisions to make sure the information and advice presented would be spot on.

“So many parents do tell us that it reminds them of when they were new parents reading their parenting books,” said Carter. “It’s a quick go-to resource that is laid out month-to-month. You can read it all the way through or you can grab it and go to the section you need.”

Many of the higher education professionals that Hazard and Carter encounter professionally felt that the book’s use extended far beyond the first year.

“They really felt that even after that first year, it was still a good resource to have on hand,” said Hazard.

Preparing for the adjustments

The book helps parents be prepared for the various areas of adjustment and transition that their students will encounter along the way, whether it’s academic, social, emotional, financial, intellectual or cultural as well as the types of adjustments parents will encounter along the way, too.

“From kindergarten through 12th grade, the expectation is that parents will be highly involved,” said Hazard. “If you’re doing the picking up and dropping off, checking the grades online, staying in contact with the teachers, you’re a good parent. At the college level it changes overnight and you can’t do any of that. You’re not expected to do any of that.”

It is the authors’ hope that their book will help parents and their students to have some of the conversations that will help students as they transition along the way.

“The two driving areas of concern are definitely academic and social,” said Hazard. “Parents want to make sure that once their students are in, that they fit in and they stay in.”

“Your Freshman is Off to College: A month-by-month-guide to the first year” costs $12.99 and is available in local bookstores such as Barrington Books and Books on the Square, as well as on Amazon and on the Barnes and Noble website. For more information or to inquire about speaking events, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/yourfreshmanisofftocollege.

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