8 Tips for Parents

Parenting a College Freshman



Your student, along with two million others, is about to enter a time at once exciting and frightening, a period of joy, pain, discovery and disappointment. These students are beginning four to five years of their lives that they'll complete as much different persons than they began.

And, like it or not, you're entering this period with your son or daughter. You'll experience the same happiness and defeats as they - second - hand, but just as vividly or achingly.

So, watch and wait and worry and accept and understand. Your children will be happier for your efforts. So will you.

Rule # 1

Don't Ask Them if They're Homesick

The power of associations can be a dangerous thing. (A friend once told me "The idea of being homesick didn't even occur to me, what with all the new things that were going on, until my mom called one of the first weekends and asked 'Are you home sick?' Then it hit me.")


Rule # 2

Write (Even if They Don't Write Back)

Although freshmen are typically eager to experience all the away from home independence they can in those first few weeks, most are still anxious for family ties and the security those ties bring. There's nothing more depressing than a week of empty mailboxes.

Rule # 3

Ask Questions (But not Too Many)

College freshmen are "Cool" (or so they think) and have a tendency to resent interference with their new-found lifestyle, but most still desire the security of knowing that someone is still interested in them.

Rule # 4

Expect Change (But Not Too Much)

Your student will change (either drastically within the first months or slowly over a few years - or somewhere in between). It's natural, inevitable, and it can be inspiring and beautiful. Often, it's a pain in the neck.

Rule # 5

Don't Worry (Too Much) About Manic-Depressive Phone Calls or Letters

Parenting can be a thankless job, especially during the college years. It's a lot of give and only a little take. Often when troubles become too much for a freshman to handle (bad test, relationship, shrunken T-shirt all in one day) the only place to turn, write or dial is home.


Rule # 6

Visit (But Not Too Often)

Visits by parents (especially when accompanied by shopping sprees and/or dinners out) are another part of the first-year events that freshman are reluctant to admit liking, but would appreciate greatly.

Rule # 7

Do Not Tell Your Student That "These Are the Best Years of Their Lives"

Freshman year (and the other three or four as well) can be full of indecision, insecurities, disappointments and, most of all mistakes. They're also full of discovery, inspiration, good times and people but, except in retrospect, it's not the good that stands out.

Rule # 8

Trust Them

Finding oneself is a difficult enough process without feeling that the people whose opinions you respect most are second-guessing your own second-guessing.