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Eight Rules of Parenting a College Student
Posted by Audrey Jackson Fri, April 26, 2013 10:16 am EDT
Congratulations! Your student will soon enter the most important years of his or her life! Being in college is both awesomely exciting and anxiously frightening. These are the true years of discovery. Your student will not leave this college the same as when entering.
Over the years, I’ve noticed parents often work to prepare their student for what they will experience, and then work to protect them from it. In our efforts to offer advice to them, we often forget that we were once there and we survived. Your student is at this point in life because you and your student believe that they have the resilience and fortitude to complete this quest. I hope that the suggestions I offer below are beneficial for you.
- Avoid Being the Student College is a time for growth. Allow your student to experience this phase of life without your chaperoning defenses, but by using their critical thinking skills to help mold them into a well-rounded adult. Your student needs to learn how to handle life situations on their own. You can help by modeling good judgment and a learning behavior.
- Support the Student (Even If They Don't Thank You) Although, first-year students are typically eager to experience all of the independence they can, most students still need and rely on the support and the security of their wonderful parents. We may sometimes misinterpret those swells of independence as rejection, but they are really signs of confidence in the life lessons learned and safety nets the College has created. Help them to progress by discussing issues in an adult manner and standing behind them as they present themselves in these cases. Don’t wait on the “Thank You”! Your student may not know the effort you put in supporting them until their own children are in college.
- Ask Questions First-year college students feel invincible. They have a tendency to resent parental interference about their new collegiate lifestyle and independent adult status, although they still need the security parents provide. Questions from parents can be perceived as rude, invasive and judgmental, or as interestingly curious, helpful and encouraging; depending on how they are asked. Remember not to use common phrases such as, "I'm paying your bills” or "I have a right to know." Instead ask questions that include, “What can I do?” What do you think about?” or “How do you like?” to get the desired response from your student. Sincere inquiries promote and encourage good discussions and independent decision-making.
- Expect Change (Hopefully Maturity) Expect your student to change! Experiences associated with adulthood and college will affect their choices. Some changes may be external, such as physical or social ones, while other changes will be internal, as in your traditional family professions, activities or beliefs. You can't stop change, but you can help guide it. Your student is still the same person you sent to college, a product of their parents, with some new changes. Remember that maturation does not occur overnight.
- Don’t Stress Out (The Student) Parenting, for the most part, seems driven by instinct, but our role changes when we begin to lose some of the control and access. We often think we have the perfect solution to most problems, but remember that your student does not have to take your advice. Don’t force your advice or the listening ear. Being a parent of a commuter or stay at home student, you will notice growth spurts and stunts, as well as the growth pains and triumphs of maturity. Be patient and understanding during the “I hate college” or the “I hate living at home” days. Communicate your stability and understanding in a caring manner. Be willing to listen and help them to identify the problem and possible solutions. Celebrate their successes with them! Help your student understand that the College must move at a fast pace to maintain its place in our global society. They will frequently receive information regarding their account, new college policies or procedures, or the college in general. Your student should keep communication lines open through their student account, advisor, and their professors. Remind them that open, honest, respectful and comprehensive communication is an important key to success as a college student and an adult.
- Support Your Adult Child (But as an Adult) Parental assistance is great, especially when accompanied by financial support; treats such as a car, laptop, cellphone, etc.; or nods of approval and satisfaction. You can also support your student by reviewing our website, visiting the College on the day of their choice or asking your student to invite friends to dinner or study. Discuss important meetings they will have, but do not manage their conversations or cover for their inappropriate behavior. These actions teach bad habits and send messages to their peers and college officials about their character.
- Open the Lines of Communication In the past; unchartered territory was embraced with you at the helm. Now, your student is taking the controls during the years that seem to lack the structured path. Their college years will be filled with decisions, mistakes and insecurity; along with exploring aspirations and discoveries. Your adult child will want to remain at the helm, but will need to know that you will assist them. That confidence is built through your open, nonthreatening and nonjudgmental conversations.
Parent / (Adult) Student Communication Has Rules!
- Communicate adult to adult.
- Communicate in a nonjudgmental manner.
- Communicate with consideration to both parties.
- Communicate with a purpose.
- Close communication with a follow-up.
- Communicate in the tone that always shows love.
- Trust Them, You and the College Believe in your new adult student. Communicate your trust in them and their belief that they made the right decision. Remember that finding “oneself” or “one’s purpose” is a difficult charge. Our “I love you!” and “I believe in you!” should not be communicated as “I’d love you better if I can control you!” Share your true experiences, including your mistakes and what you were thinking and felt afterward when you made choices.. Your adult student is the product of your years of hard work. Encourage them to ask for help and to seek out resources at the college. The college has safety nets in place to help them succeed.