A Guide for Families

How You Can Help Your College Students

  • College may be the first time that you and your student have been separated. Remember that your student is taking you with them. Though your student may not admit it to you, they will quote things you’ve said-and recount things you’ve shown them. Remember to allow your student to be independent, and most of all, remind yourself that it’s natural that you and your student feel nervous and excited.
  • Offer support to your student. Be there to listen, talk and reassure them. Encourage your student to turn to you in good times and bad. Stay steady even when your student is shaky. You can provide a familiar and safe haven, an anchor in a new and unfamiliar sea, a place for solace and encouragement and admiration. Be continually loving, supportive, and caring.
  • You still have a very important role in keeping your student safe and healthy, especially around alcohol and other drugs. Remind them they don’t have to drink to have fun. Ask about their social life, not just academics. If you do suspect a problem, get help immediately.
  • Trust that your student can make their own decisions and allow them to solve problems alone.
  • Mistakes, when they are made, are often necessary motivators for learning and change. Let your student experience the natural consequences of their “mistakes.”
  • Affirm confidence in student potential.
  • Shortly before your student goes away to college, they may need extra time with friends. Allow them space, but make sure they know you are always available when needed.
  • Eliminate major controversial discussions.
  • Students often need encouragement to seek the help they need. Learn about resources at the college your student is attending and encourage them to look into support services if necessary. Support your student’s emerging independence by helping them to take action on their own behalf.
  • Deans, instructors and faculty advisors can provide advice on academic matters.
  • Residence Hall Directors (RDs), Assistant Residence Hall Directors (ARDs), and Community Advisors (CAs) are trained to help students who live in campus housing.
  • Encourage your student to know where the university Health Services and Counseling Center are located. Knowing where these resources are located can be reassuring to students and parents.

(A compilation of material taken from various resources, including Channing L. Bete Co.; “Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years” by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger; “Helping Your First-Year College Student Succeed” by Richard H. Mullendore and Cathie Hatch; other universities; and the staff of the Plymouth State University Counseling and Human Relations Center)


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