Note to Self: On Parenting College Kids

Parenting kids in college is uncharted territory.  They need us, and yet the don’t. They want help, and yet they don’t. They are adults, and yet sometimes that can be hard to tell. Here are a few reminders to myself.

Remember how fast they changed when they were babies? College kids are in the infancy of adulthood.

It is so easy to start a sentence, “When I was in college…” And so hard to face the fact that the world has changed too much for almost anything that follows to be relevant.

What to remember when parenting college kids

Family time is not less important now that they are in college, it is more important.

If our children graduate from college having learned to think critically, act kindly and somehow support themselves financially, every penny of tuition will have been worth it.

Hates his roommate? Can’t stand her professor? Study group doesn’t appreciate her efforts? Good training for life.

There will be campus pick ups and drop offs over and over again. These days are filled with logistics and sometimes frustration and tears. Remember they are big days, memorable days and fill them with meaning as well.

[More on writing that special letter when your drop off your child at college, here.]

There never was a right answer in parenting, there was only trying our best. Now, as college kids come to us with bigger, more important questions, it is essential to remember this has not changed.

They will do things you will not be proud of, they are probably not proud either. You can either make them feel bad or throw your mind back to the 1980s and remember some of your own transgressions.

College years are a time of high highs and low lows. If we think back we can remember this all too clearly. The trick is to remember it when your kid is on the phone in tears.

They will do things in college, in the name of experimenting, that will quickly get left behind once real life begins. It’s hard, but don’t panic.

Cafeteria food might not be great, but neither is shopping, preparing, cooking and cleaning three meals a day. When they complain, sometimes college kids just need to be reminded of the alternative.

Don’t spend the college years grieving over how fast our time with our kids went, or you will miss these years as well.

The shorter you make your visits to your college student the more often you will be welcomed back.

[More on how to make the most of Family Weekend (or any visit to your college student) here.]

Studying and doing well in school is our college kid’s job. Anyone who forgets this can be fired and find a new job, one in the real world, that involves real work, eight hours a day.

If you are worrying about the problems that your kid has shared with you, make sure they are still worrying as well. All too often they tell us of their troubles, leaving us fretting all night, while they quickly move on. (h/t Becky Blades)

Staying close to your college kid is not helicoptering, it is being family.


Note to Self: On Parenting Teens 

Photo credit: Readerwalker


About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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