Parenting Your College Student

Parenting Your College Student

Advice from a Massachusetts K-12 Guidance Counselor


Parenting a college student brings on new feelings for everyone involved.  Your now adult child is seeking more independence and that means more trust from you - trust that you will allow them to figure things out on their own and allow them to make their own mistakes.  This can be challenging for parents.  On the one hand, you want to see their babies leave the nest and soar.  And, on the other, you worry they may struggle.  In order for them to soar successfully, they must first learn to fall, pick up, dust off and try again.


Letting go may be easier said than done.  Parents can help by encouraging self-advocacy. There are three parts to becoming an effective self-advocate:

1.  knowing yourself,

2.  knowing your needs, and

3.  knowing how to get what you need

By now, your child has a good idea of who they are and what they want, even if they don’t always talk about it. As situations arise, they will certainly know what they need.  Allowing them to figure out for themselves how to get what they need, is the only way to guarantee success and independence.  Of course advice, encouragement, and pointing them in the right direction are all helpful.  It is important, however, to make sure your now adult student is solving any challenges that come their way on their own.  


Your role now is to offer support and guidance when needed.  For example, if your college student needs to communicate with a professor, you may remind them about office hours or where to find their professor’s email.  If they need to find out more about a department or services available to them, remind them to visit the college web page or to go directly to the department. Making calls and researching information for your child will help them in the moment, but not in the long term.  Self-advocacy skills are lifelong, necessary and important. 


Lastly, although you are their parent, and you may be contributing financially to their college or cost of living, The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has provisions for both students and parents in regards to student records.  For the most part, college students’ records and personal information are private and by law cannot be released to parents.  While this can be frustrating, it is another opportunity for your student to show independence, and maturity. 


Parenting a college student will bring its own challenges.  It requires trust in your child and yourself, patience, and the willingness to allow your child to make mistakes.  You must find balance and understand when to step back.  It’s the ability to offer advice, but not too much; to assist but not take over; to encourage but not do.  In the moment this may be uncomfortable, but in the long term your child will have the skills and experiences necessary for a successful life. Take comfort in the knowledge that you have raised a bright, capable, mature adult. 


More links to articles:

For parents

For families of adult learners



Last Modified: 8/2/21