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15 Things Parents of First-Year College Students Should Never Do


1. Get Carried Away in Hysterics: No one wants to be the freshman of the mom who literally couldn’t let go, fell, hit her head, and got carried away in an ambulance. On the other hand, hiding your feelings makes you come off as cold and uncaring. Find a middle ground (a few tears, no sobbing on the ground) and get out…fast. Run!

2. Wake-Up Calls: It’s not about you getting them up; it’s about you knowing where they are in the morning. I know it alarms you to be so far away, but this is not how your child becomes a self-sufficient responsible adult. Besides, sleeping through a quiz is all part of learning.

3. Call a Teacher: Parent-teacher conferences are ovahhh (unfair, right?). In fact, FERPA makes it illegal for schools to share your 18-year-old’s grades or divulge that your child is on academic probation. If your child has a problem, your child must fix the problem. This is why there are academic advisors, office hours, department chairs, and deans of students. Unless your child is unable to speak due to an illness or prolonged absence, let him or her do the talking.

4. Cut Them Off: Threats only work for so long. Then your child will become an adult, keep secrets, avoid you, and spend time with the nicer in-laws. If your child is underachieving, misbehaving, or struggling, there is always another issue behind it. Get mental health or academic support to help fix the problem instead of reacting to the symptom.

5. Fix Fix Fix: It’s your passion. It’s your purpose. You’re a pro. But it’s no longer your problem. Their struggles belong to them. Their victories belong to you (yes, a mom told me that at an event—brilliant). Let them fix it. Repeat after me, “What do you think you should do?” Give problems time to marinate. At least 24 hours. It’s how they become seasoned.

6. Public Humiliation: Being your child’s Facebook friend, Instagram follower, and Twitter subscriber is a privilege. Not a parental right. Come across something offensive, alarming, or dangerous? Have a private conversation. Never publicly shame, censor, or parent. WARNING: YOU WILL BE CUT OFF.

7. Text Abuse: “Where’s the remote?” “Eating at ur fav restaurant.” “Waiter just asked where r u.” “Missing u.” “Hot 2day.” “Sunscreen?” “LOL.” “Boo.” “Hi!” “☺.” You are a new generation of parent. You have to be the one to set boundaries and limit communication. Cut your talking, texting, and communicating in half. When your child is texting, talking, or video chatting with you, he or she is not building new relationships with new people on campus.

8. Always Blame the Roommate: NEWS FLASH: Your kid might be the roommate from hell. When your child screams, “I HATE MY ROOMMATE!,” ask your angel three questions: Do you want to get along? Can you just be roommates (friendship is a bonus)? Have you shared what is making you uncomfortable or asked your roommate to share what’s making him or her uncomfortable? If your child answers NO to any of these questions, I’ve got news for you.

9. Surprise Visits: No one likes surprises. Give them a day or two, or at least a few hours, before springing an impromptu visit. They need to clean up, ask the overnight guest leave, and fumigate (kidding about the guest, maybe…).

10. Expect Perfection: Your kid has had to be perfect for 18 years. Set them free. Give your child permission to be imperfect. It’s a gift. When they struggle, instead of panicking, suggest they find their people and places.

11. Cure Homesickness at Home: FACT: 66.6 percent of first-year students admitted feeling homesick or lonely (according to HERI stats, UCLA). The cure for homesickness is not at home. It’s finding your people and places on campus. It’s being patient and appreciating that change takes time. Remind them. I’ll remind them too.

12. Redecorate Too Soon: It’s awful to sleep in a sewing room that used to be your bedroom while home over Thanksgiving. That’s what one first-year student told me. His mom took over his room the day he left. Give it a good year before throwing out the mattress and moving in the sewing table.

13. Wait for Them to NEED Help: Students who have struggled socially, emotionally, physically, financially, and academically in high school may struggle in college. Change can be a trigger. Make sure they have help in place before they need it. Over 32 percent of college students admitted feeling so depressed “it was difficult to function” (according to ACHA-NCHA data). Identify specific people who can help and support them. Give them all the info they need to get help before they need it.

14. Be Impatient: Google the word patient and you get 514 million results in .05 seconds. No exaggeration. Change takes time. The first year in college is the equivalent of being trapped inside a snow globe filled with fecal matter (it can be a you-know-what storm). You must be the patient and clear-minded one because your college student doesn’t know patience yet.

15. Fight the Uncomfortable: Change is uncomfortable. Fighting the uncomfortable only creates more uncomfortable. Your job is to get comfortable with the uncomfortable first—then when the unexpected pops up, you can help your child get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

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