Parenting in the college years

So they've graduated. Now what?

Our family is getting closer to the college years. My kids still have a little ways to go, being in 5th and 8th grades. But Mr. W’s son is staring down the barrel having just entered his junior year of high school. And while we’re all relatively calm about this reality, the stress of this is surfacing ever so slightly every day we creep towards mailing off the college and scholarship applications.

Of interest, I came across an article on a new book for parents of kids in college this weekend. Appropriately enough, it’s called “Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money“, by Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller. And while I haven’t read the book, I can already tell it’s one I should be picking up.

“As a faculty member, parents call me when their children are dissatisfied with grades, and it’s become all too common to find parents editing students’ papers,” said Christine Schelhas-Miller, co-author of the book. “The risk is having children who graduate without the skills to make decisions, solve problems and take responsibility for their own lives.”

Basically, this book is the how-to regarding cutting the apron strings – a guide for encouraging your kids to not depend on mommy and daddy in the years they should be exercising their freedom. It’s how to NOT call them every day. It’s how to keep from knowing all the trouble they’re getting into on their own. And it’s how to NOT come to their rescue when they’ve run out of money, their laundry’s piling up, they aren’t sleeping well, and they’re behind on their studies. Basically, by not helping them, you are actually HELPING them. And you’re ensuring that your kids won’t be included in the boomerang statistic because they won’t be running back home when things get tight. Instead, they’ll learn by default how to take care of themselves and become a responsible adult in society.

A few tips for parents of college-age students, as suggested by the book:

– Start detaching from kids in their sophomore year of high school. Let them take the lead in things like their college application, getting a job, doing their own laundry, etc. Ease them into becoming more independent so it’s not such a shock three years later.

– Understand the needs of a “Stress Dump”. You can listen. You can let them get it out. But you are not obligated to save them from their troubles. Sometimes ‘pain’ is necessary. And sometimes doing nothing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing to help them. Of course, suggestions like “talk to your professor” or questions about what they’re hoping to accomplish can also help. But don’t be afraid to let them figure it out on their own too.

Have you survived your child’s college years? Or are you just getting started? What would be your advice to parents about to enter the college years with their child?

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6 thoughts on “Parenting in the college years”

  1. Teach them to do their laundry as a sophomore? What are you waiting for? As soon as they can reach the washer and read directions, they should be responsible for some of the family wash load.

  2. This is utter nonsense. Of course the teens should do their own homework, however it is completely foolish to expect them to handle all aspects of their college paperwork on their own. It’s an uneven playing field when most parents assist their teens with their college applications, and other parents follow this advice and don’t provide counsel and guidance. The end result if you ‘detach’ and ‘let them take the lead’ and flounder on their own….your teen isn’t accepted into their college of choice. So who wins in that situation? Is that the best advice for your family overall? Of course not.

  3. I think I’ll still let them take the lead on all of those things, like job and college applications. But you’re right – I could never let them flounder on their own. It’s too big of an ordeal! I’ll definitely be right there beside them, probably even pointing them in the direction of who they should be talking to, etc. But they’ll be the ones doing most of the footwork.

  4. No loving mom can totally turn away and allow their child to flounder. When our kids start college, it’s hard for all. I’ve had to pick and choose when I step in and help. It’s been stressful to not only hear some of the frustrations and ordeals but also to make that decision as to when I should help. It’s not easy, but then when has raising children EVER been easy. Lol. We love them, we do our best, and we hope with all fingers and toes crossed that they come out productive citizens. This is the time when we have to suck up our fears and desires to protect constantly, and let them become adults. Oh, it’s also the time that we find more and more gray hairs popping up. Not only do I see them, I really believe at times that I can actually hear them. ; )

  5. It is approaching so quickly. Yes to letting him take the lead and be involved. I encourage him to research and decide where he wants to go. He has to own it. But yes, just like the school projects and reports that need some parental “assistance”, the paperwork and deadlines will need our eyes –
    Its daunting for me. He has to do the footwork- talk to counselor, align community service …. It’s hard to let go. What will be harder is the tough love as he moves on to become am adult.
    To be continued…..

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