Tips for Parents
Having a son or daughter start college is a time of transition and both students and parents may handle this life stage in different ways. Here are some general recommendations that you as a parent might find helpful:
- Be aware that your student may experience a mixture of emotions about starting college ranging from intense excitement to extreme apprehension. Provide an opportunity for them to talk openly about their feelings without judging or criticizing them for the way they feel.
- Students will obviously be faced with decisions about sexual behavior, alcohol, and drug use while attending college. Talk about your own personal values and expectations of them in regard to these issues while conveying the understanding that they are ultimately responsible for the choices they make. Give them the chance to share their own ideas about these issues and try to be respectful of them even if you disagree.
- Plan to stay in touch with your student by e-mail, text message, and/or telephone calls. However, it is probably a good idea to let the student initiate most of the communication and to avoid conveying the sense of “checking up on them.”
- To the extent possible, when your student brings up problems, concerns, and/or decisions to be made, unless asked specifically for advice, try not to be too quick to offer it. While there are undoubtedly exceptions to this rule, it may be more helpful in promoting their development toward healthy independence to give them the chance to work through their own issues. View your role as that of a friendly consultant, allowing them to bounce ideas off of you and helping them to weigh their options before they act.
- Understand that their initial college experience may not always live up to their expectations. If they have been told that their college years will be “among the best of your life,” they may feel disappointed about some of the more unpleasant realities (e.g., difficult course work, lack of sleep, loneliness, inconsiderate roommates) of being a college student.
- Recognize when your student could benefit from counseling. If your student exhibits significant mood changes, expresses a sense of being overwhelmed or stressed, and/or just seems unhappy, present counseling to them as an option without trying to force them into agreeing to see a counselor. Sometimes the more you try to push an emerging adult to do something, the more likely you are to experience resistance. Make sure that they are aware that Counseling and Testing Services offers free and confidential counseling to all enrolled students but leave the decision up to them.