This is a time-old question. Your newly minted college student has probably spent the majority of their teen years trying to assert their independence. Ready or not, now they have it; so, how do you, as a parent, help them through this transitional period of their lives?
Lots of mixed emotions come with your child heading off to college. Feelings like pride, excitement, loss, and anxiety come to mind. Now imagine how they must feel. I think we can all agree a good support system is of the utmost importance for your young adult to thrive in their new environment.
We have made a short list of tips you can apply to aid you in your quest to successfully toe the line between supportive and smothering.
Advise your child financially
This is a big one. College is expensive and your child’s newfound freedom could lead to financial disaster if it goes unchecked. Unfortunately decisions made now can affect their finances for years to come. There are many aspects that go into financial responsibility for your college student. Talk with them about the many costs that go into college life: tuition, housing, books, and food to name a few. Help them search for scholarships, loans and grants. Prep them before they leave with advice on how to use a checking account, live on a budget and teach them the ups and downs of the dreaded credit card. Establishing good financial habits now will help them be financially secure not only in their college years but also when they graduate and transition into adulthood.
Let them decide their own future and goals
Every parent has a dream for their child, but it is also true that most college students have dreams and goals of their own. By all means, give your opinion on what their strengths are and what you think they would succeed at; but also make sure you are being supportive of what they have in mind for their future. Whether they match your own ideas or not it is important to let your child choose their own way, otherwise resentment could set in. Your child needs to know you support them no matter what.
Let them deal with tough situations on their own
This is a particularly tough one for parents; no parent wants to see their child struggle. However, if you swoop in and save the day whenever they face a difficult situation they will not learn how to deal with it on their own. Give them advice and support them but limit your involvement to that alone. Plus, if they know they will always have you as a safety net consequences will be meaningless and they might never be mindful of their choices and actions.
Check in regularly but don’t smother
There is a fine line here. Your child might surprise you on how often they want to hear from home; especially at the beginning, homesickness is a real thing and staying in contact regularly shows your child their support system is intact and here for them when they need it. Try calling two to three times a week as a start and gauge their response from there, texting is great for quick check-ins as well.
Create a safe space for the difficult conversations
Having your child away from home means you don’t have much say in their lives anymore. Relinquishing control is not easy especially when it comes to tough matters like grades, drugs and alcohol. Obviously parenting doesn’t end when the control over their lives does. Your insight on the aforementioned “tough topics” could help them make good decisions and even keep them safe. Thus, it is important your child feels safe and comfortable enough to discuss these matters with you.
Watch for signs of mental health issues
Anxiety and depression are frequent issues new college students face. It is important you keep an eye out for signs that your child might be struggling with these. Every campus has resources and facilities that provide counseling and help for students in need. If you sense something is off, encourage them to utilize campus resources that are available to them.
A parent’s worry never ends, even when your child is no longer a child. We hope you can utilize these tips and if your child is falling behind in their studies you will consider talking with one of our coaches here at Academic Coaching Specialists. We will work with your child to hone in on their shortcomings and sharpen critical skills they will need to succeed during these next four years of independence.