Parenting Your College Student
You have been a good parent. Sure, you have made some mistakes, but you did your best, and now your son or daughter is ready to go off to college. Or are they ready? You have about two weeks left in the summer. Did you do enough? They certainly have all of their stuff ready as it spills out from their bedroom to the rest of your home. And you have completed the paperwork and perhaps attended an orientation for the college. As a parent, you go through that mental checklist again, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you wonder, “Have I done enough?”
For many years we have thought of going off to college as a person entering adulthood. There was a time when colleges told parents to not contact their child until after six weeks, but recent studies have found that the parent connection can be a good thing for college students. Many colleges offer newsletters and orientations to help parents with this transition. They offer freshman seminar classes and first-time college student groups to help. Transitions in life can often be bumpy.
Most parents have been right there with their child while they have gone through all of life’s transitions—like losing baby teeth, the first day of school, that first dance…and so on. But suddenly you just drop them off at college, and they are on their own.
Your job as a parent started years ago, and the relationship that you have with your college student does affect many areas of their life. A positive parent relationship has been shown to help college students have greater self-confidence, clearer personal and professional goals, better self-esteem, more security, and increased acceptance of self and others. College students who feel close to their parents are better managers of time, have good note-taking skills, and are constructive thinkers. They generally are more committed to school and their goals for a career.
On the other hand, college students who have parents who are more permissive, who hover, or who cut them off completely have a difficult time adjusting to college and often have more depression, stress, and anxiety.
So keep talking with your child! Text, e-mail, call, Skype™. Do whatever you can to stay connected. It is not abnormal to talk daily with your college student, nor is it bad if they talk one time a week with you. This will vary. Do not make decisions for them, but encourage them to make their own choices. Send them short devotions or Bible verses that have encouraged you that week. You certainly can and will want to pray for them daily. Plan to visit for parents’ weekend. Encourage visits home when possible. If you notice signs of withdrawal from others, anxiety, sadness, crying, obsessing about a specific worry, and other thoughts that concern you, please encourage them to talk to someone. Many colleges have a counselor on campus or a nearby pastor.
Our counselors at Christian Family Counseling also have experience in helping college students and their families through challenging life transitions. To find an office location near you or inquire about our online counseling services through our Member Assistance Program, please call 800.438.1772.