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Sending Your Kid to College – Tips for Surviving College for Parents of Freshmen

If nervous about sending your child off to college, check out these tips for surviving college for parents of freshmen! They’re from a psychologist who specializes in helping new students adjust to school and achieve their college goals. These tips will help parents establish a healthy balance between being involved and supportive — but not too involved.

Before the tips, a quip from Dr Seuss:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Parents of freshmen, remember that your “little one” has brains, feet, and the ability to make choices and decide where to go. If you want your kid to achieve his or her goals in life, you have to let go!  Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual is a valuable source of information for parents of freshmen. And, here are psychologist Dr. Lauren Saler’s tips for surviving college for parents of new students…

Sending Your Kid to College – Tips for Surviving College for Parents of Freshmen

“There is the financial stress on top of questions about how to let go but stay connected, how to help but not be overly involved,” says Dr Saler. “There may also be disagreement with their choices and concerns about changes in personality and academic functioning.  Families also face shifting roles and may experience a void or feel marginalized once their child starts college.”

If finances are a problem, read 3 Tips for Cutting College Tuition Costs.

Dr Saler encourages parents to learn how to give up control and access to their college students, while still being a source of support and encouragement. And, freshmen must be proactive in making the transition easier on themselves and their families.

Summer Tips for Parents of College Students:

  • Expect more push, pull, and conflict.
  • Allow your child to be responsible for waking themselves up and doing their laundry.
  • Encourage managing money, and balancing a checkbook.
  • Revisit the “big stuff” – – alcohol and drug use, safe sex, peer pressure, etc., but repackage information so it is not a rerun.
  • Negotiate rules in for time spent at home (i.e. curfews, chores) combining their new independence and respecting house rules.

Tips for Parents After College Starts: 

  • Be patient.  Transition, separation, and the accompanying stress are natural. 
  • Don’t call college the “best years of your life.”  Letting your child know you expect both amazing and difficult times will allow them to approach you when in need.
  • Encourage the use of resources at the University.  Learning to advocate for oneself is a crucial life skill. 
  • Help develop decision and problem-solving skills.  Do not make decisions or fix their problems. Owning good and faulty decisions is part of growing up. 
  • Know the limits of your control.  Trust in the values you have taught your child.  
  • Encourage staying on campus on weekends and support campus involvement.
  • Use this opportunity to nurture other aspects of your own life.

Signs Parents Are Over-Involved in a College Student’s Life:

  • Calling to wake your child up for class
  • Reading/editing your child’s papers
  • More contact with college staff/faculty than your child
  • Talking to child’s roommate(s) regularly
  • Regular weekend visits from your student

Dr Saler recommends consulting a college counselor or other professional if parents or freshmen students aren’t preparing to achieve college goals. Most schools have a counseling center with free services; counseling prevents situations from worsening and teaches invaluable skills. 

If you have any questions or thoughts about sending your kids to college, please comment below…

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Dr. Lauren Saler is in private practice in Ardsley, NY, and has been a psychologist at Pace University in Westchester County for over 15 years.

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1 thought on “Sending Your Kid to College – Tips for Surviving College for Parents of Freshmen”

  1. It is important to have a perspective. Kids are now grown enough to find solve their own problems, so it is time to give them some slack and discover themselves. At the same time, as the article states, keep an eye on the big picture