Tips for Parents

Parenting 101 for College Parents

Article courtesy of the parent relations department at Tennessee State University

Your son or daughter has entered a time that is both frightening and exciting, a period of joy, pain, discovery and disappointment. This period in their life will leave them very different from what they previously were, and you’ll experience all the happiness and defeats along with them. Here are some guidelines to help the transition be a successful one.

Stay in contact, but not every day.

Although freshmen are typically eager to experience all the away-from-home independence they can get, most are still anxious for the family ties and the security those ties bring. Regardless of how mundane it may seem, most freshmen would give anything to hear news about home and family. There is nothing more depressing to a freshman than an empty mailbox, so send letters and special things like a newspaper clipping from their hometown.

Expect change.

College and the experiences associated with it can affect changes in social, vocational and personal behavior choices. An up-to-now wallflower may become a sorority member, a pre-med major may discover that biology is not his thing, and a high school radical may become a college intellectual. You can’t stop change, but it is to your son or daughter’s advantage to accept it.

Be a coach rather than trying to solve your child’s problems yourself.

You’re likely to hear more than your share of problems. College students usually call their parents for reassurance when things aren’t going well, and call their friends with the latest exciting news. When you get those late night phone calls, and you will, you can encourage your child to use the appropriate resources — to go to the health service or career center, to talk to an advisor, dean, a counselor or tutor.

Water what you want to grow.

If your first questions are always about dating, social activities or the score of a recent ball game rather than about ideas, classroom discussions and extra curricular activities, you may send the wrong signal about what is really important at the university. Having a student in college provides an outstanding opportunity to learn about a new book or the latest view on a topic of mutual interest. We urge you to ask about these things first so you will find the conversation a rewarding experience as well as showing your student the demands of college matter to you.

Start preparing yourself emotionally.

Finally, what about you as a parent? While the shock of their initial departure may be fading, remember that your relationship with your son or daughter is in a period of change. The amount that they come home or contact you may differ over their college years.  They also will be taking on more responsibility and making more decisions. Expecting change in your relationship with your student can make this period less stressful emotionally. 

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter for additional tips and advice to help your college student succeed. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group. 

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