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Parenting New College Students

By Dr. Debi Yohn

Mobile phone, instant messaging, email, FedEx... with all the technology that is available today, it's so easy for parents to stay in touch with their new college student children. But, when is it too much?

Parents are talking to their kids two, three, four, five times a day. However, what they fail to realize is that a major part of college is the student learning to deal with life issues on their own.

Don't get me wrong, I am the first one to say that parents need to remain involved. But, there reaches a point that your young adult needs to start taking responsibility and advocating for themselves. They need to make their own decisions. This is all part of growing up. And, if you have been a good parent, now is the time to step back and let your child step forward and practice what you have been teaching them all along.

Your new college student son or daughter will run into problems starting from the beginning. They might not like the roommate they have, or they might not like the dorm supervisor or their advisor. In many cases the first thing they will do is call mom or dad. But before you call the school and take care of this you may want to think twice. As a parent, I strongly urge you to be there as a listener and listen to the dilemma. But then, ask them what they plan on doing about this. Discuss what their options are and encourage them to take care of the problem without you stepping in. Don't deny them this experience. Let them feel good about handling the issue. Only get involved if it is dangerous or something that truly involves a parent. How to Be a Resource for Your New College Student — and Not a Pest

  1. Avoid those "blah, blah, blah" phone calls during the week. Establish a once a week time to talk. Agree in advance when this talk will happen. Use this time to catch up with everything that has happened. It may be 15, 20, or 30 minutes. The point is, you are not there constantly hovering over your new college student. Let them know that if they need to talk, you are available. But if it is not an emergency, try to talk only at your pre-appointed time.
  2. Encourage your child to seek available resources at school. Send your student to their advisors for the academic advice that they need. Other resources include student affairs, career centers, medical clinics and other counseling centers. Your student should be familiar with these resources available to college students.
  3. Encourage your child to get involved. Throughout their college years, your child should engage in their college's ongoing student activities. You can also suggest that they volunteer for charitable activities. Healthy activities help to combat some of the loneliness your new college student child may feel when they first go to college. And, it's a perfect opportunity for them to meet a diverse group of friends.
  4. Let them be in charge of their own finances. Credit cards are disasters waiting to happen. Adults have issues with credit cards. How can we expect a college student to do better? Instead, you should be clear about their monthly living expenses. Use a debit card and each month deposit a set amount. Do not give ANY additional money, unless there is an emergency. This gets your child in the rhythm of budgeting and will teach them how to become more independent?
Remember, as a new college parent that wants the best for their child, you should be involved in your student's life. But your parenting may need to be different. When you "hover" over your child you build a barrier between you and your college student. You give them the message that they cannot do anything on their own without their mother and father.

So, step outside your comfort zone. Let the student experience success. They may have to experience some failure to experience their success but let them own it. As a parent, your reward will be watching them become successful adults.

Parents from around the world have sought College Parenting Expert Dr. Yohn's advice on successfully getting college students through college with an emphasis on graduation and rewarding employment. Now for the first time, she reveals Parenting College Students: 27 Winning Strategies for Success - a guidebook geared to parents of new college students. Read this and improve your child's chances of a successful college experience.
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