College is a pivotal point in life. Students are becoming their own person and developing the skills to succeed in life. Your role during this time in your kid's life is critical. Though your role will change, they still need you. Students need you to support their growth, development, and independence, and to be a stable force in their ever-changing world. On occasion, they even need your advice, though they may or may not ask for it. Here are some tips for you, the college parent, on how you can best support your student.
Support your student by staying connected – but by keep that connection balanced. Communicate via phone, e-mail, IM, cell phones, and 'snail' mail often enough to ensure your student knows you are there for them, without becoming intrusive. Expect that your student will not respond to all of your contacts. Despite the lack of response, know that they appreciate hearing from you. Be sure to visit, but not too often and communicate your plan ahead of time.
Ask Questions—But Not Too Many
Many students (particularly those early in their college career) desire the security of knowing that someone from home is still interested in them. Your curiosity can be either alienating or supportive depending on how you approach it. Honest inquiries and other 'between friends' conversation and discussion will go a long way to strengthen your relationship with your kid.
Be Open But Mindful
A natural outcome of a campus as diverse as CU Denver is a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, some of which may challenge your student's prior belief systems. Allow them to explore ideas without being judgmental. Understand that changes in viewpoints, behavior, dress, eating and sleeping habits, and relationships with you are all to be expected during the college years. Be open to these changes – they are an inevitable part of college life, and can be inspiring to watch. However, if you suspect that some of these changes may be signs of bigger problems (alcohol or drug abuse, academic problems, etc.), the Counseling Center can provide support.
Keep Up Difficult Conversations
As a parent of a college student, you no longer have the same control that you once had. However, you do still have a tremendous influence on your kid's behavior. Studies show that parents influence their child’s behavior regarding drugs, alcohol, and risky sexual behavior even after their child leaves for college. While you cannot force your student to behave exactly as you would want them to, you can share your values and beliefs with your student on these topics. Create an atmosphere of open communication, and your student will not only appreciate that you respect them as an adult, but they will also be more likely to turn to you for guidance.
Be Knowledgeable About Campus Resources
Helping your student to navigate a large university by referring them to the appropriate university resources is one of the best ways for you to be a mentor during their college career. Not only will pointing them in the right direction show that you are interested in your student's life, it empowers them to solve their problems on their own.
Demystify Pop Culture "College"
Pop culture has created a lot of false impressions of what college life is like. It doesn't show the fear, confusion, overwhelmed feelings, and mistakes that are part-and-parcel with the major transitions college students are undergoing. Students may feel these things and worry that they are not 'normal' because what they're feeling is in contrast to what they've been led to believe while growing up. You can help by understanding the highs and lows of college life, and by providing the support and encouragement to help your student understand this as well.
Trust Your Student
One of the most important tips, and possibly one of the most difficult is to trust your kid. College is a time for students to discover who they are. Let go a little bit and trust that your kid has the foundation to make decisions. Though they may stray at times they have the capacity to learn from their mistakes.