DOs and DON'Ts for Parents of college students

The following are some "DOs and DON'Ts" compiled by our Clinical Director, Dr. Beth Cholette, which she shares during "Leaving Them On Campus," a program for parents offered during first-year orientation every summer.

  • DO remember that there are no "rules," no "right" answers--it depends on what is best for your particular student and your family.
  • DO identify past strategies that have worked--e.g., how have you handled conflict with your son or daughter in the past?  Use the same tools now that have worked for you before.
  • DO discuss expectations with your student before s/he leaves for college--this includes expectations about money, grades, visits home, phone calls, etc. 
  • DON'T TELL your student what to do; rather, engage in a dialogue, including all family members as appropriate.  (For other discussion ideas, see Parents: What Would You Do If Your Son or Daughter...)
  • DON'T set overly high expectations--in particular, DON'T tell students "college is the best years of your life" (it may not be!).Student Group, Thumbs Up
  • DON'T try to solve problems for your student. Not only is this no longer practical or feasible, but also it is no longer appropriate.  Instead...
  • DO listen and ask open-ended questions, such as "what do you want to do?, "how can I help", and "what do you need from me?"
  • DO be aware of and suggest on-campus resources, such as reminding students of the availability of academic advising, Counseling Services, etc.
  • DO get help for yourself if necessary--talk to your spouse,other family members, friends, other parents, or seek therapy if you are struggling with your son or daughter's departure.  DON'T place the burden of your feelings on your student!
  • DO remember that this is the moment that you have prepared for as a parent--i.e., sending your child into the world in order to be independent--so give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done!!!