‘Twas the night before move in
and all through the hall
everything was in order,
not a problem at all.
The door tags were hung
and made with such care,
in the hopes that my residents
soon would be there.
Instead they arrived
full of questions and quips.
There were even angry parents
With hands on their hips.
No longer full
of excitement and cheer,
I felt my whole body
tremble with fear.
I tried to smile
through this terrible scare;
for this disappointment
I was not prepared!
As silly or trite as these lines sound, veteran Resident Assistants all have unhappy parent stories. Opening day is one of the most important for a Resident Assistant. Positive interaction with residents and their parents help get the year off to the right start.
Here are some suggestions that will send unhappy parents home with a smile, feeling as though they have left their child in good hands.
Introduce yourself: Offer your name and title with a smile. Concisely explain to the unhappy parent your role in the residence hall. They will feel better speaking to a representative of the university or college.
Be sensitive: An unhappy parent may not really be dissatisfied with the amount of closet space their child will share. Many parents are just nervous about their child being away from home.
Remain calm: Use your normal speaking voice. Mumbling will make you seem incompetent and yelling will only make matters worse.
Maintain eye contact: You will have other residents and parents who need you, but give an unhappy parent your undivided attention. Your active participation encourages cooperation and will speed the problem solving process.
Write it down: Take down the resident’s name, room number, and any complaints with the unhappy parent as a witness. Seeing their complaints on paper will validate an unhappy parent’s concern. After a hectic day, your notes will remind you of what needs to be done in the hall.
Repeat it: Assure unhappy parents that you were listening by repeating their
complaints. This gives them the chance to make sure that you have the correct information.
Get your supervisor: When you feel overwhelmed, call your supervisor and ask for some help. Explain to the unhappy parent that this person is better equipped to help in this particular situation.
Keep in mind; what might seem ridiculous to you is a serious concern for the unhappy parent. Don’t use humor as a means of lightening the situation, as an upset parent could easily misread it.
With the right attitude and these tips, you can make the most unhappy parent one that you look forward to seeing at the end of the semester.
Submitted by Christine Gaydos, Assistant Director of Residence Life, Wilkes University