If you have a child who is now a college student, you are probably incredibly excited and proud of who your son or daughter has become. You probably know that having a good support system is important for any young adult, so you want to be there for your child during this transitional period of his or her life.
However, you might not be sure of how to be a good, supportive parent during this exciting time.
These seven tips can help you be the supportive parent that you want to be when you have a child who is in college.
1. Help Your Child Make Good Financial Decisions
One of the major things that you can help your college student with at this point is making solid financial decisions.
As you already know, the decisions that your young adult makes now can impact his or her life for years to come.
For example, taking out too many student loans and getting into too much debt could be crippling for your child in the years to come, particularly if he or she does not have a plan in mind for paying the money back.
Talk to your college student about the costs of college tuition, housing, books and other expenses. Help your young adult compare colleges, housing options and the costs of books.
Assist your teen with looking into scholarship opportunities, loans and grants. Your advice can help your young adult pay for his or her college education and can help them avoid making financial mistakes.
Additionally, consider talking to your young adult about other financial-related matters. Your teen should know how to open and use a checking account, save money and otherwise handle his or her own finances by this point.
Your advice can be incredibly helpful for a young adult who is just getting started, and helping your son or daughter establish good financial habits now can help them live a more financially responsible life well into adulthood.
2. Be Supportive of Your Child’s Dreams and Goals
You might have your own ideas in mind of what you think your son or daughter is good at or what type of career that you think he or she should pursue.
Although there is nothing wrong with giving your opinions, make sure that you are supportive of your child’s dreams and goals, even if they aren’t exactly what you have chosen.
It’s important to let your college student know that you support him or her no matter what.
3. Don’t Bail Your Child Out of Trouble
If you see that your child is in a difficult or uncomfortable situation, it might be your first instinct to jump in and try to help.
Although they might need your help every now and then, it’s important not to bail your son or daughter out of trouble every time they make a mistake or end up in a tough situation.
Provide advice or information about helpful resources, but let your young adult learn how to tackle tough situations alone. This will help them become more successful in college and beyond.
Plus, when young adults know that they will have to face the consequences of their actions without a lot of outside help from their parents, they may be more mindful of what they are doing and they may focus on making better decisions.
4. Check in Regularly
You might not think that your college-aged teen wants to hear from you very often, but this may not be the case at all. Going off to college is a big change in any young adult’s life, and your son or daughter probably needs your support more than ever.
Staying in contact and checking in regularly is a good way to show your son or daughter that he or she still has a solid support system, despite being away from home. Call or text to check in, and stay in touch on social media.
This will let your college student know that you are cheering him or her on from back home, and it can help your child feel a little less lonely and homesick when getting used to college life.
At the same time, don’t monopolize his or her time. Decide on what is reasonable in terms of frequency of phone calls; many families choose to talk once per week and rely on quick texts in between.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Difficult Conversations
Now that your young adult is no longer living in your household, you don’t have the same amount of control that you once had. You also might not be aware of everything that your teen is up to.
However, this does not mean that parenting should end or that you shouldn’t continue having difficult conversations.
In fact, your college student might need your advice more now than ever when it comes to tough matters like sex, drinking or drug use.
It might be uncomfortable to bring these topics up, but your insight could help them make better decisions and could help you keep him or her safe.
6. Watch Out for Signs Your College Student Is Struggling
Some young adults adjust to college life a lot more easily than others. Some find themselves feeling incredibly anxious about the workload, and some suffer from depression because of the major changes in their lives.
Watch out for signs that your young adult could be suffering from mental health issues, and encourage him or her to seek professional help if you think that mental health issues might be a problem.
If he or she lives on campus, a student health facility that provides mental health counseling could be just a short walk away.
Encourage them to make use of student health services as they are available.
7. Don’t Be Too Smothering
Although it is important to be supportive and present in your college students’ life, you shouldn’t be too overbearing or smothering. It’s normal for parents to miss their children when they go off to college or to really worry about their health and well being.
However, it is also important to let your teen enjoy his or her college experience and find his or her own way.
Plus, now might be a good time for you to focus on some of your own hobbies; this can help you when you’re struggling with the emotions of having a child move out of the house.
If your adult child is in college and you want to be supportive, the tips above can help.
It may take trial and error to figure out how to be supportive without being overly so, but once you strike the right balance, you’ll probably find that it will help your college-aged child and your entire family during this important time.