Supporting Your Student

Supporting Your Student

How can I best support my student in college?

It’s easy for caring parents to want to rush to solve problems and smooth out experiences for their student. Most parents just want their student’s life to be easier than their own. While your concern can be very comforting, it can also be harmful to a college student who is just beginning to discover life on their own. Part of the college experience is learning to be more independent.

Your student will be experiencing exciting and challenging situations that they need to learn to handle on their own. As a parent, try to avoid rushing in to the rescue. Instead, think of your student’s college experience as a job.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you feel like you need to intervene on your child’s college experience:

  • If your child had a job performance problem, would you call their boss to clarify the quality of work your son or daughter is producing? What about contacting their professor directly if your student has an academic performance problem?
  • If your child expressed difficulty resolving personality conflicts with coworkers, would you contact his or her supervisor to clear this up? What about calling the Housing Director about your student’s roommate conflict?
  • If your child fell behind in paying their telephone or utility bills, would you contact the phone company or city to negotiate their bill or start a payment plan for them? What about contacting the college to clear up a parking ticket or unpaid lab fee?

It’s important to remember that going to college is your student’s job, not yours. When they encounter problems in the college environment, the best thing you can do is react as you would if they were having difficulty in the work environment. You can offer support, answer questions and point him or her to the right resources while emphasizing the importance of self-reliance. Learning to deal with problems on their own is a critical life skill that students need to develop, and it provides you the opportunity to begin to let go.

Adapted from Parents, Family, and the New College Student Experience, by Dr. Kent D. Beeler, 1998.