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College Is Also About Parents Letting Go

Dear Harlan: My son is going to college next year. We understand that parents do not get automatic access to grades because of privacy laws. How can we insist on seeing his grades without causing a division in our relationship? — Concerned Parents

Dear Concerned Parents:  I know you might be paying for his college education, but you’re sending a bigger message to your son when you ask to see his grades: It tells him that you don’t trust him to take care of himself in college. You seem to be aware of this; otherwise, you wouldn’t be concerned about this causing a division in your relationship. Instead of demanding to have access to his grades, think about why this is so important to you and the message it sends. He needs to learn how to be intrinsically motivated. You need to learn to trust him. Instead of telling him what he has to do, ask him how he feels about you having access to his grades. Talk about his academic expectations. Share your expectations. By the way, the first semester in college usually is the most challenging. Remind him of any minimum GPAs that need to be met in order to keep financial aid (some grants require minimum grades). See how he responds to the tone of the conversation – he might want you to have access to his grades. Either way, be prepared to have a conversation. Changing how you approach the topic can make all the difference. And yes, there might be compelling reasons I don’t know about that would make this completely appropriate. Only you can fully know the relationship you have with your son.

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