What College Students Want Parents to Know
The college years can be a tricky transition not just for students, but for their parents as well.
My mom and dad are the best college parents in the world. If I need anything, they help me in the most considerate way possible. They engulf me in their love when I need comforting. They care for me unconditionally and respect me. They don’t micromanage me, and I know I can safely release my secrets into their receptive ears.
However, I have realized even my parents will err with their college student at times.
One day, a friend was telling me how her parents don’t always tell her what’s going on at home. She asked, “Do your parents ever do that?”
“No,” I confidently responded. “They always tell me everything. But I think I’m an unusual case because my parents are just that great.”
I didn’t know what was coming.
That night, as I was chatting with my parents, my mom said, “Kyra, we have to tell you something.” She then proceeded to narrate the tale of my cat’s disappearance two weeks before. That’s right, two weeks.
We talk at least once a week, yet they failed to mention my cat vanishing from our yard until a couple weeks after the fact. I thought back to my previous conversation with my friend and laughed. I told my parents, “And I was just telling my friend that you guys never kept things from me!” We chuckled together, and they assured me they would do better about keeping me in the loop.
Through all of this, I discovered I was not the one person who magically possessed perfect parents. That maybe, just maybe, parents are struggling to navigate this college territory just like students.
On that note, here are some things college students want parents to know.
We’d like your input and support in making decisions.
We are just entering adulthood and could really use your support when making the new decisions screeching into our world. One fellow student told me, “I wish my parents were more active participants in my college search,” saying their parents did not come with them on campus tours.
Parents, most college kids want you to participate in big decisions like picking a university, as long as you don’t make the decision for us.
Also, please remind us it’s okay to do poorly on something every now and then. Classes, relationships, and extracurriculars all whirl around in our brains. We are bound to forget and to fail, but that’s all part of the learning process! It’s alright if we switch majors, transfer colleges, or maybe even take a break from school as needed. It helps to hear our path doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
At the same time, please let us make our own decisions.
Most of us yearn for independence and ample space to become our own person. For this to happen, we need you to let us diverge from you a little more.
For instance, please do not pressure us to come home all the time or choose a certain major. Don’t tell us what time to go to sleep or who we should be dating. Most of us still want to talk to you regularly, take part in family activities, and ask for your advice. However, we need you to respect our right to make our own choices.
As one student told me, “I just wish that my parents viewed me as a full adult, capable of making my own decisions without their approval.” Through your faith in us, we will become more confident in our independence and more comfortable being ourselves around you.
Do you use a lot of “shoulds” and “should nots” when speaking with your college student? How you interact with them over the decisions they’re making will either encourage or discourage the self-reliance they’re trying to develop.
We’ve changed, and that’s okay.
College has shaped me in various ways. Professors introduced me to previously unknown philosophies, artistry, and worldviews. Peers revealed new lines of thinking I never considered before. I took part in activities I never thought of trying before. I returned home a very different girl from the one who left. And I know I’m not the only one. Experiencing personal change in college is pretty normal.
Understandably, it can be difficult to acclimate to this change in us. However, this is an opportune moment for you to reaffirm how much you love and admire us and get to know the adults we’re growing into. Listen to our differing views rather than changing the topic. Let us ask questions and be curious! Wondering is not the same as wandering.
So ask us what we’ve been learning recently through our classes, internship, etc. We might surprise you with our insights.
But we will always be your kids.
Although we would like some independence, we also desire long-term connection with you. We want you to share your wisdom, we want to hear about your own college experiences, and we crave your undivided attention.
Although we are not officially under your roof anymore, please remind us we will always be your child. Let us rant to you and tell you about our hard times as well as victories. Not all parents get to hear about what’s going on in their college student’s life, so please treat these conversations as a gift to us both.
Next time your college student comes home, consider taking them out to their favorite place and talking about life with them. Ask how they’re really doing and listen attentively to their answers. You still (and always will) play a powerful role in our lives.
Speaking of your role, thank you so much for all that you do! You have taken us school shopping, welcomed us back on breaks, been there for us in our tough times, and imparted valuable wisdom that will help us for years to come.
You are amazing, and we couldn’t do it without you.
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