Supporting Your College Student

As your student takes on adult responsibilities and begins the college journey, your role in their life will change but they still need you. Students need your support as they navigate towards their independence and future and need a stable presence in their ever-changing world. 

Learning to navigate this challenging time can be difficult, rewarding, inspiring and life changing. Below are some resources and tips to help you and your student throughout their educational journey.


Tips on Ways to Show Your Support

Stay Connected

Support your student by staying connected. Communication patterns may change during this time and it is helpful to use the methods with which your student is most comfortable. Communicate via phone, e-mail, IM, cell phones, and ‘snail’ mail. Expect that your student will not respond to all of your contacts but know that he or she appreciates hearing from you. It is helpful to establish expectations for communication as early as possible to avoid misunderstandings. Setting up a weekly check-in can reduce frustrations of feeling like you are not connected with what is happening in their life.

Checking In

Give your student the opportunity to share feelings and ideas with you. They are experiencing new viewpoints and perspectives that may challenge prior belief systems. Allow your student to explore ideas without being judgmental. Understand that changes in viewpoints, behavior, dress, eating and sleeping habits, and relationships with parents are all to be expected during the college years. However, if you suspect that some of these changes may be signs of bigger problems (alcohol or drug abuse, academic problems, etc.), refer your student to the Counseling Services office. Trust your instincts. Your student may need you to refer them to the appropriate resources for help. Take the lead on initiating conversations and check-ins with your student as they may not start those conversations on their own.

Be Knowledgeable About Campus Resources

Utilize this website to learn more information about campus resources and offices. The website provides a great deal of information about the Kent State at Stark campus and its departments. Helping your student to navigate the university by referring them to the appropriate resources is one of the best ways for you to mentor your college student during this transition to adulthood. By acting as a referral source, you can demonstrate that you are interested in your student’s life at the University, and at the same time, you empower your student to solve their own problems. Encourage your student to make contact with offices on their own rather than making those contacts for them. This is the best way to teach your student to be their own self advocate.

Continue to Have Difficult Conversations

As a parent of a college student, you no longer have the same control that you once had. However, you do still have a tremendous influence on your student’s behavior. In college, your student will have to make their own decisions about relationships, life style choices and the path they want to pursue for their future. While you cannot force your student to behave exactly as you would want them to, family and friends can share their values and beliefs with their students on these topics. Studies show that parents influence their child’s behavior regarding drugs, alcohol, and risky sexual behavior even after their child begins college. Provide your student with the facts on these issues, and empower them to distinguish between good and bad decisions when it comes to their behavior, health, and safety. Create an atmosphere of open communication, and your student will not only appreciate that you respect them as an adult, but they will also be more likely to turn to you for guidance. (Source: Brigham Young University (2008, February 11). “Sex, Drugs and Alcohol: Parents Still Influence College Kids’ Risky Behavior, Study Shows.” ScienceDaily. Read the news release.)

Ask Questions - But Not Too Many

Most first-year college students desire the security of knowing that someone from home is still interested in them. Parental curiosity can be alienating or supportive depending on the attitudes of the persons involved. Honest inquiries and other “between friends” communication and discussion will do much to further the parent-student relationship.

Expect Change

Your student will change. College and the experiences associated with it can effect changes in social, vocational, and personal behavior and choices. It’s natural, inevitable, and it can be inspiring. Often though, it’s a pain in the neck. You can’t stop change and you may not understand the changes your student is going through. However, accepting these changes and supporting your student can help to expand and enhance your relationship with them.

Avoid Telling Your Student that "These Are the Best Years of Your Life"

The first year of college can be full of indecision, insecurities, disappointments, and most of all, mistakes. It’s also full of discovery, inspiration, good times, and exciting people. It may take a while for students to realize that their initial ideas of what college will be like may be wrong. Students might not realize that college is about being scared, confused, overwhelmed, and making mistakes. Students may feel these things and worry that they are not ‘normal’ because what they’re feeling is in contrast to what they’ve been led to believe while growing up. Family and friends can help by understanding that the highs and lows of college life are a critical part of their development, and by providing the support and encouragement to help them understand this as well.

Trust Your Student

College is a time for students to discover who they are. Finding oneself is a difficult enough process without feeling that the people whose opinions you respect most are second-guessing your own second-guessing.


Blogs, Websites & Articles for College Parents & Families

If you are interested in learning more about the student and family relationship during the college years and resources to help this transition, here are a few online informational resources: