Grand Family Network keeps parents in touch with students

GVL/Emily Frye - Karly (left) and Kenzie Brouwer (right) participate in craft activities during Sibs n Kids weekend Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

Emily Frye

GVL/Emily Frye – Karly (left) and Kenzie Brouwer (right) participate in craft activities during Sibs n’ Kids weekend Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

Kyle Bindas

It’s natural for parents to stress out about their children when they go away to college. They wonder how their classes are going, what’s going on at school and how their students are doing.

The Grand Family Network is a new support system at Grand Valley State University designed to answer some of those questions parents have.

“We realized several years ago it was kind of the tradition of colleges, once the student came to college they were an adult, and the parent was hands-off,” said LeaAnn Tibbe, co-founder of the Grand Family Network. “That mentality has changed and we realize now that our students are very connected with their parents, we have learned to embrace them as partners.”

The Grand Family Network seeks to help parents feel involved and keep them updated on what’s happening at their student’s school, Tibbe said.

“I would hope families feel like they’re part of the Grand Valley Family,” she said. “It’s a community that we have here that our students all experience that, and I’m hoping now our families feel that they’re part of that Laker family.”

Services provided include an email address and phone number available for families to ask general questions about the university and a monthly newsletter.

The newsletter contains information about family events on campus and features key issues students may face while away from home.

“The first month we address the issue of alcohol, because for a lot of students this might be their first opportunity that there is a lot of alcohol that they’re exposed to,” Tibbe said. “This month, we know that students deal with homesickness about six weeks in, so our newsletter for October (will) have issues in the article about homesickness.”

This is the first year of the program, which began in May. Tibbe said the program has already seen success with over 1,000 people signed up for the newsletter. Tibbe said this was accomplished with little advertising.

The program’s founders have ambitions of expanding in many ways. Tibbe said there are ideas of starting a GVSU family Facebook page and expanding the network to include alumni.

Tibbe also said the program is looking to host one or two events a semester.

“I think it’s an asset for the university to have this program so that there is a touch point for families and they don’t feel disconnected, but feel involved and included,” Tibbe said.