As my daughter, a high school senior, prepares for the next steps in her life, I’m noticing how my role in her life is changing as well. Now that she’s signed up for the SAT and is thinking through her college choices, I’m acting more like a life coach than a boss. I wish I could slow things down, but I can’t—so instead, I try to savor all the rare moments we have together as she develops her own sense of identity and steps into increased responsibilities.
One of the surprising moments of bonding we had happened last summer when I asked her if she’d like to volunteer at The Lab—RTB’s three-day mentoring program designed for students who have a vision to pursue a career in science, engineering, or medical research. I recruited her to help me record some lectures; but, in the process, we had a very meaningful shared experience—rare for this season in her life.
During the course of The Lab, I noticed that many of the other parents felt a similar connection to their son or daughter. Unexpectedly, many of the parents expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share such a transformational experience with their child during a season of life when typically their time together is quite limited.
Building on these insights, here are a few ways parents can transition into the role of life coach and supporter as their child heads off to college. Students who are considering a future career in science have a challenging road ahead of them, but having parents who are equipped to support their efforts can make a big difference in helping the child succeed with their faith intact.
Three Practical Ways Parents Can Support Their Science-Minded Students
1. Share in their interests.
Parents don’t need to be well-versed in differential equations or Newton’s second law to take an interest in their student’s pursuits. There are other simple ways to be involved; for example, on the next family vacation (preferably when your college student returns home for the summer) why not stop at a science museum, observatory, or national park? When at home, would it be viable to create some space in the garage or a backyard shed for your student to experiment or build? Do they have a quiet, adequate place to read and study? Take their hobbies seriously and invest in their interests. It may seem trivial now but these small acts may one day help your student discover the next breakthrough in science, thereby bettering the world.
2. Help them find an on-campus Christian group or mentor.
It can be frightening to watch your child go off to college, out of your protection and control. So many questions cause worry: “Will she be safe? Will he be able to navigate the complex adult world?” And if you’ve heard the stereotypes about Christians in secular universities, another concern might be this: “Will they lose their faith?” As RTB astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink puts it, Christians are needed in secular universities and they should be at the forefront of scientific experimentations and discoveries. Even if Christian students are surrounded by agnostics, atheists, and moral relativists, they can still find other believers with whom to fellowship. Most campuses have Christian clubs, and with a little networking, it might be easier than you think to locate someone to mentor your child through their educational and spiritual journey in college.
3. Attend The Lab this summer.
This year, The Lab will offer more sessions that will equip parents with practical ways to support their student’s scientific pursuits. We’ll go in depth on what it takes to find an on-campus or local Christian mentor, get connected with a university Christian group, stay connected with resources at Reasons to Believe, and more. We want to not only help students catch a vision for their future, but also help parents be a partner in that effort. One of the most important things we want parents to learn is that they don’t need to know as much about science as their child. Primarily they need to know their child and then learn how to help them connect with other supportive voices. We hope you’ll consider joining us at The Lab. Students can apply by visiting the website at reasons.org/thelab.
By Krista Bontrager
Krista Bontrager is dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. A teacher at heart, she enjoys explaining the Bible’s truths to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.