Your Child is Off to College: Time to Build that Adult Relationship

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Anne Weeks
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University Parent guest writers Janet Byington and Steve Safigan offer 5 simple steps to building an adult relationship with your off-to-college child:

  • Share

It is time to share your child. They need to develop independence while in college in order to be a successful adult. Encourage them to solve their own problems by seeking professionals on their campus for advice. Encourage them to navigate on their own and to turn to you only when they are stumped. Actively listen, but don’t give unsolicited advice. Remember, learning from their mistakes will make them better problem-solvers in the future.

  • Budgeting

College is the perfect time to learn about money and budgets. Don’t be there to automatically shore up a lack of funds. Let your child learn by trial and error how to budget for food, entertainment, etc. If they move off-campus, make sure they learn about rental agreements and sharing costs with roommates. Do have a conversation about credit cards as many credit card companies target college students early on. Credit card debt can easily get out of control, so make sure your child is educated about the downfalls.

  • Hands-Off

College is the time to learn from bad choices with more of a safety net than the work world provides. Allow your child to learn from failure. Help them understand consequences. If they fail a course, will this mean taking an overload, going an extra semester, or giving up a January term for catching up academically. However, do not be too judgmental. Be calm and logical – just ask your child what they need to do to remedy the situation.

  • Mentors

Encourage mentoring relationships; whether it is a college professor, a dorm proctor, a graduate assistant, or an internship coordinator, a mentor will be able to advise without the same emotional baggage a parent may bring to the conversation.

  • Be There, but in Small Doses

Always make clear that home is there when needed. However, don’t be such a presence in your child’s daily life that they feel obligated to engage frequently. Send a text once a week with a small bit of news from home. Don’t pass judgment on your child’s developing values. Have confidence you have given your child a solid foundation from which to develop.

College is the first step towards your child’s independence, but it is also the chance to set the tone for your adult relationship – be supportive, listen, and celebrate!


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Anne Weeks

Anne Macleod Weeks is a graduate of Lawrence and Villanova Universities. She has been an educational administrator and English teacher for 38 years, specializing in the area of college admission. Ms. Weeks has been a leader in the college admission and Advanced Placement arenas and has published on pertinent educational topics in a variety of national papers and journals. She currently resides in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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