Tips for Parents

Am I Ready to Parent My College Student?

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By: Madison White, Uloop

Are you ready to be the parent of a college student? The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes, but you will probably never feel completely ready.

You may have mixed feelings about sending your child off to college. You’ll be proud of them because they’re moving onto the next stage in their life. At the same time, you know that your lives and the relationship between you will probably never be the same.

In reality, the transition to parenting a college student is different for everyone. It depends on multiple things like your proximity to them, your current relationship, and their degree of independence. You may also see many of these things change over the course of their college years. Often, your student will experience an initial stage of excitement and fun at their newfound independence, but some of that may also result in some poor judgment.

Be sure to keep in mind, though, that it is your student’s life and not yours, and some lessons may have to be learned the hard way. Of course, if they come to you asking for advice or you learn of some behavior that could be seriously damaging to them, you may need to step back into their lives.

Don’t be afraid to let your student grow on their own. It’s definitely wise to stay interested in their life and ask them questions about how things are going, but you also want to give them the time and space to create new friendships and relationships with others during this stage. That being said, all students are different. Some students are fine with only texting their parents a few times a week while others feel it necessary to call their parents every day.

Don’t be surprised if your relationship consists of a lot of communication in the beginning that then decreases over time. It is not a personal attack or a sign that they need you any less, it is simply that they are forming new relationships and priorities that may take up a lot of their time. In college especially, it is very easy to get wrapped up in new friend groups, social events, and academic work. This doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten about you, but that they’re probably a bit overwhelmed with everything going on around them.

If your student is your only child or youngest child, you’ll probably also experience another, larger life change. You may find that your house is much quieter and a bit lonelier. Take this time to refocus on yourself. You might want to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while, especially ones that have been through the empty nest experience. You may also want to take up some hobbies or start volunteering somewhere.

College parenting is about parenting in a different way. You may find that parenting a college student is much more pleasant than before. During this time, students often start to realize the responsibilities of adulthood and will find you more relatable and ask for help. You also may begin to develop a close friendship with your student that maybe wasn’t there when they were still at home.

Even if your student is still living with you at home, you’ll probably still notice some differences in their behavior. They’re likely to start acting more independent and taking initiative in all the decisions in their life. You may find that they are at home less and are taking part in other activities. If they aren’t really engaged in their college experience, it might be wise to encourage them to find a club or society on campus that interests them.

However, the most important thing to do for your college student is to support them. It will be tempting to manage their lives like you used to and relentlessly ask about grades, jobs, and activities. You need to remember that you’ve done a good job raising them and trust that they will make good decisions.

College is a fun and exciting time where many people learn the most about themselves and form friendships that will last a lifetime. That being said, college can also be a time of self-doubt, isolation, and stress. Getting a degree while maintaining a healthy life balance can be extremely difficult. If this is happening to your student, remind them that you believe in them and support them in their endeavors.

Give advice if they ask for it or really need it, but don’t overextend your reach. Unfortunately, many of the issues college students face are ones that parents can’t usually help with. What you can help with though is being that constant source of love and support that every person needs to truly succeed in life.

You’ll be so proud when you see them walking across the stage in just a few years to receive their college diploma!

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