Sending your child off to college changes the dynamics of your relationship. You aren’t raising a little kid anymore, so how can you support them while they’re growing up away from home? These are a few ways to help your college student without becoming a helicopter parent.
1. Practice Active Listening
Eventually, your child will call you to catch you up on something that made them excited or something that’s frustrating them. They may even struggle to get used to their new living arrangements. When they call or text, practice active listening.
Start the conversations with the intention to learn about your child and provide feedback without personal biases involved. Responding respectfully and without judgment will show them that you’re there to listen, even if they don’t want you to fix anything.
2. Help Them Strategize Their Hours
Putting your college class schedule together can be confusing at best. Your child will have to set up their next semester at some point and they may ask you for help. If that happens, see which classes will earn the most credit hours next semester. They’ll keep working toward their degree and have easier future semesters when they also want to work an internship or job.
Parents who also feel confused can help their students contact someone at the registrar’s office for help. Your child may have earned some extra college credit hours in high school by taking advanced placement (AP) classes and get to skip comparable university courses. Asking for help also teaches your child how to do the same later in life.
3. Talk About Their Interests
College is a time of exploration, so ask about your child’s interests. It’s one of the best ways to support your college kid because your support may empower them to lean more into their interests. Your gentle inquiry will help them consider which hobbies they enjoy and which clubs they’ve seen around campus. They may even join a few and make new friends while they explore their identity.
4. Send the Occasional Care Package
Care packages are a tangible reminder of how much you love your child. Send them a few throughout the school year. You could include gift cards, fuzzy socks, their favorite snacks or whatever else they love. You’ll remind them that you’ve got their back and value them for exactly who they are. That can be incredibly encouraging for a young person in a period of growth and transition.
5. Schedule Your Visits
Sometimes parents surprise their kids by showing up on their college campus. Although a few young people might love that, many don’t. It assumes that they have nothing going on and can feel like an invasion of their privacy.
It’s much better to schedule your visits if you live close enough to stop by your child’s college campus sometime. They can find a weekend that won’t otherwise interfere with club activities or exam study sessions before agreeing to a date. Everyone will get something to look forward to while your child also practices their time management skills.
6. Ask if They Need Anything
College students may feel pressured to have everything under control. Your child may not mention needing something because they think they’re old enough to provide for themselves.
In reality, college students often don’t have the financial resources to pay for everything they need. Instead of hoping they aren’t too embarrassed to ask for help, gently ask if you can send them anything. They might need a heavier jacket for the colder campus weather or a better umbrella if it rains more often than expected. Even sending grocery money over an app will give them peace of mind.
7. Be Gentle With Advice
Your child will eventually encounter situations they don’t know how to handle. They might have roommate problems, issues with a romantic partner or struggle to make friends. If they ask for your advice, be gentle with your response.
You shouldn’t tell them what to do because you’re not parenting them anymore. That kind of response might just drive your child away. However, you can make suggestions based on your perspective or experience if they’re open to hearing from you.
8. Tell Encouraging Stories From Your Past
Parents sometimes get panicked phone calls from their college students. Their child might panic about switching degrees or become afraid that they won’t be able to make a career out of their education. If that happens, you could make that conversation a sweet bonding moment by talking about your past.
Learning that you switched degrees could encourage your child that everything will be okay. They might need to hear that your first job out of college wasn’t what you expected, but you molded a great career out of the experience. The reassurance could help them take a deep breath so they’re ready to make a plan or simply work through their anxiety.
Support Your College Student
These are a few ways to support your college student regardless of their experience during this school year. Depending on your existing relationship and what the year holds, you can stand by their side while giving them room to grow.