Tips for Parents

Parenting 101 for College Students

Your son or daughter is about to enter a time that is both frightening and exciting, a period of joy, pain, discovery and disappointment. Your student is beginning a period in their life that 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.

Don’t ask them if they are homesick.

The first few days and weeks of school are jam-packed with meeting new people, learning a new routine, and taking on new activities. Adjusting to the situation takes most of the new student’s time. So, unless they are reminded of it (by a well-meaning parent), they’ll probably be able to escape the loneliness and frustration of homesickness. Even if they don’t tell you during the first few weeks, they do miss you.

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 egghead. 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? You are probably dreading the moment when you have to give your child one last hug and bear the drive back home alone. In order to avoid a last minute breakdown, don’t be in denial for the months leading up to their departure. Start easing yourself into the realization that your son or daughter will not be around as much and your house will feel a little emptier.

Article courtesy of the parent relations department at Tennessee State University.

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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