March 3, 2011
11-53

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Parents and Families Association Plans for the Future

VALDOSTA -- Jeff and Lynn Franklin know the importance of giving children roots and wings. The two became co-chairs of the Valdosta State University Parents and Families Association this year to help other moms and dads navigate through the emotional and practical challenges of the college experience.

“We decided to get involved with the association because as a teacher, I recognize a school needs input, resources and support beyond the funds and staffing they receive from tuition and the state,” Lynn said. “Parents can offer a fresh look at today’s issue from both their own experiences and to meet the needs of their student. I know so many parents are looking for a network of people with college-age kids and a way to participate in university life.”

Parents of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Franklin, a senior interior design major, said the main goal of the association is to help parents better understand how the workings of the university and the issues facing the institution will impact their student’s experience. The couple aims to use technology to increase participation within the association and to offer services to parents and students. The Franklins are intent on establishing a parent handbook for prospective and first-year parents that will outline everything from hotels in the area to advice about staying connected with children and helping them budget.

“The top three questions I have received are about safety, support, and trust. I would love a parent handbook to include information about campus safety and university response methods. It would also cover budgeting tips, general city information -- from hotel and restaurant information to groceries and medical options,” Lynn said. “I also want it to include helpful hints from parents who have been through this. For instance, if your student is not staying for summer, get together with three or four other families and rent a storage space so you don’t have to lug it all home again.”

The Parents and Families Association came about six years ago, but the organization has had a resurgence of campus support and parent participation within the past year. The association, with about 100 official members, sponsors the Student Awards ceremony each spring and recently expanded its membership privileges to include a membership card and discounts at the VSU Bookstore. The council also participated in the V-State Experience Tour, which promoted VSU in eight cities throughout the state, and plan to sponsor activities during Parent’s Weekend and a tailgate party during Homecoming.

“If parents ask me how to let their student transition before they are accepted to college -- my best advice is let them do it. Have them fill out the application (yes, you can check it for them), and have them make the phone calls and e-mails with questions and concerns. If you do everything for them, they will stumble; if you let them exercise their wings before they go off to college, they will be that much stronger. College is a learning experience for you both.”

The Franklins recommend parents text and e-mail to keep in touch with their students. Quick "how are you doing?" messages let students know their parents are thinking about them and that the lines of communication are always open. Talking with students through the latest technology makes them feel as though you care enough to adapt your life to keep in touch with theirs.

“Texting and e-mail is what I recommend to parents. This method allows your student to reply on their terms without feeling that you are in ‘their space,’ Lynn said. “Texting and e-mail can be done without friends knowing they are talking to ‘mom and dad’ and go about their business and call when they are free or lonely.”

For more information about the Parents and Families Association, go to http://www.valdosta.edu/studentaffairs/pfa/

Check ou the Parents Resource Center: http://www.valdosta.edu/prc/index.shtml