Tips for Parents: Surviving Your College Student’s First Year



Lebanon, Ill. — As a proud parent of a new college freshman, you’ve helped your teenager shop, pack and get ready for school, yet you may feel a little sad or anxious as the send-off approaches. How do you find the balance between staying connected and letting go?

Joni Mitchell, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of retention services at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill., offers a bit of advice for parents to help ease the transition.

First, it is important to understand that your relationship will change during your child’s first year in college. “Just because your son or daughter is going to college doesn’t mean that he or she is leaving you completely,” Mitchell said. “Your student still needs your love, support and understanding.” Learn to create a healthy distance.

She warns parents to “be careful about ‘just showing up and surprising them’ – or you could be the one surprised!”

Stay in touch by alternating your means of communication. E-mail, text, call on the phone, send a card or package now and then.

“Even with all the technology, students still enjoy receiving cards and packages in the mail,” Mitchell said.

Encourage your student to join a club or organization. According to Mitchell, those who participate in campus activities are 75 percent more likely to graduate in four to five years than those who choose not to get involved. Students who are involved feel more connected to the institution.

Try not to be judgmental if you disagree with your student’s choice of major or discipline. It is not uncommon for students to change their minds a couple of times before selecting a major. Encourage a visit to the career center on campus to explore various options.

Agree to disagree about some topics such as politics, diversity, and religion. Don’t take differences in opinion personally.

Encourage your child to share grades with you. Make it clear that, like the institution, you expect your student to go to class.

Let your child solve his or her own problems. Listen to the problem and then ask a few open–ended questions to help reflect upon the situation. Ask if he or she has talked to any of the resource people available on campus.

Finally, Mitchell urges all parents to “enjoy your student’s college years because they will go fast!”