Healthy Ways to Get to Know Your Student’s Friends
Getting to know your student’s friends is an important way to connect. Peers have great influence on many college students—and your student is likely no exception.
The process can be easier than it may seem at first glance. The following suggestions can help bridge the gap between you, your student and her friends:
- Just Ask. Your student is probably excited about the new friends she has met at college. Remember names and the next time you two talk on the phone, ask how those friends are doing.
- Connect to Classes. Has your student chosen a major? If so, ask if he’s met anyone interesting in any of his classes. Even if he hasn’t, this might give him a chance to vent about the people he’s met that he dislikes—which opens the gate for him to tell you about the better people he’s met other places.
- Look at Photos. Does your student have a camera? If so, ask her if she’s taken any pictures of the people with whom she spends time. Again, students are generally excited about their new surroundings, and will jump at the chance to show people their new homes and the people they live with. Once you see faces, you will have a better time picturing what your student means when she talks about how her roommate never does her laundry or how she always walks to class with the redhead down the hall.
- Visit. If the school is close enough where a drive to take your student out to dinner is a feasible option, do so, and ask him to invite his roommate or one or two of his friends. This way, you get to spend time with your son and meet and talk to his friends at the same time. He will appreciate the offer you extended to his new friends, and his friends will love you for buying them dinner.
- Share Memories from Your Own Experiences. Tell your student about the time you went camping for a weekend when you were her age, or about when you tried to drive to a party but got lost and ended up having more fun in your residence hall room anyway. These stories will probably remind her of things that have happened to her, and will prompt her to tell you about what she and her friends have been up to.
When it comes to meeting friends, there are certain things not to do, also. Consider avoiding the following:
- Badgering Your Student for Information. If he doesn’t want to tell you, he’s not going to—and excessive questioning will most likely make him clam up in the future, too.
- Making Your Student Suspect You Don’t Trust Her. Let her know you are excited to meet the new friends just to see who is in her life, not because you are hesitant and unsure if you’re going to approve.
- Don’t Judge on Appearances Alone. Just because your student’s new friend has a ring in her lip or his roommate doesn’t dress like your idea of a successful young man doesn’t mean they aren’t good people and great influences. Your idea of an acceptable friend may be based on stereotypes—so check yourself before you say anything that might cause hurt feelings.
Using these tips will not automatically create a lasting bond between you and your student’s friends, yet they will set you on the right track to a healthy relationship between you and your student. You’ve set a good example, so trust your student to do what he knows will make you proud.by Jessica Polledri, an English major at the University of Mary Washington (VA)