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Mistakes Parents of College Students Should Avoid


As the parent of a college-bound student, it's natural to feel excited, proud and even a little unsure as your child begins this new stage of life. Because you want nothing more than for them to succeed in their educational journey, it's also normal to have concerns and questions about how you can best support your new young adult.

In this post, we'll explore some common mistakes that parents of college students make and how you can support your child's journey through the next few years of college.

8. Over-Involvement in Your Student’s Life

It's natural to want to be involved in your child's life, but when it comes to college, over-involvement can be counterproductive. Remember that your child is now an adult — they deserve the opportunity to make their own decisions, even if they make mistakes.

While staying connected and supporting your student during their college experience is great, you should try to find a balance between being involved and giving your child space to grow and learn independently.

7. Pressuring Your Student Over Finances

It’s no secret that college could be costly, and your child will probably need to research and plan how they will pay for tuition, books, and other expenses that come with spending four years at university. Because they’re likely already feeling overwhelmed trying to pay for school, pressuring your child to contribute financially to your family can add unnecessary stress to their hectic lives. Not to mention that added financial pressures can prevent your student from performing well in their college classes.

While it's understandable for your child to contribute financially at times, it's vital to approach the conversation with sensitivity and understanding. Consider setting clear expectations and discussing a plan that works for both you and your child. Remember that college is a time for your child to focus on their education and future career, and financial pressure can distract them from their goals.

6. Setting Unrealistic Expectations

You want the best for your child and may have high hopes for their academic performance, as well as their future career. However, setting unrealistic expectations can put unnecessary pressure on your child and negatively impact their mental health and well-being.

Remember that every student has their own unique strengths and interests, and what works for one student may not work for another. Instead of pushing your child towards a specific major or career path, encourage them to explore their options and find what truly resonates with them. By supporting your child's individual journey, you can help them find success and fulfillment in their college experience and beyond.A mother talking to her stressed daughter about college decisions.

5. Lack of Communication

Communication is key in any relationship, including the one between a parent and a newly adult child. Maintaining open and honest communication with your child should be a priority throughout their college experience, including the process of applying to schools. This means staying informed about their academic progress but also being available to discuss any personal or emotional challenges they may be facing.

Some parents may be hesitant to initiate these conversations out of fear of overstepping boundaries. However, it's important to remember that your child may still need your guidance and support, even as they grow into adulthood. By fostering a supportive and communicative relationship with your child, you can help them navigate the challenges of college and beyond.

4. Not Letting Your Student Make Mistakes

As a caring parent, you probably want to protect your child from making mistakes and experiencing failure. However, in college, not allowing your student to make mistakes can hinder their personal growth and development. College is a time for your child to learn and explore, and that includes making mistakes along the way.

By allowing your child to make mistakes and learn from them, you are helping them build life skills such as resilience, problem-solving, and independence. It's important to remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process. By allowing your child to experience it, you are helping them develop the skills they need to succeed in college and beyond.

3. Comparing Your Child to Others

While it’s natural to compare your child’s achievements when you hear about other students’ accomplishments, the reality is that comparison can be a harmful practice when it comes to college. Comparing your child to others can create unnecessary pressure and anxiety for both you and your child. Every student has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and it's essential to focus on your child's individual journey rather than their performance in comparison to others.

Instead of comparing your child to their peers, focus on supporting them in their own academic and personal growth. Encourage them to pursue their passions and interests, and celebrate their achievements, no matter how big or small. By focusing on your child's individual journey, you can help them find success and fulfillment in their college experience and beyond.

Father and son sitting outdoors having a conversation.

2. Not Respecting Boundaries

Respecting boundaries is essential to any relationship, including the one between a parent and a college student. Your child is now an adult and has the right to set their own boundaries. Your student might decide they only visit home over breaks or talk on the phone once per week. These boundaries around their personal space, social life, and academic pursuits are a normal and healthy way for them to test out their newfound freedom as a young adult.

While it's understandable to want to be involved in your child's life, it's important to respect their autonomy and allow them to make their own decisions. Disrespecting your child's boundaries can strain your relationship and negatively impact their mental health and well-being. By respecting your child's boundaries, you show them that you trust and support them, and foster a healthy and positive relationship for years to come.

1. Not Addressing Mental Health

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall health and well-being, especially for college students who may face unique stressors and challenges. As a parent, remember to address mental health with your child and provide them with the support they need. This can include encouraging them to seek help from mental health professionals, checking in with them regularly, and being a listening ear when they need to talk. Ignoring or downplaying mental health concerns can have serious consequences and negatively impact your child's academic and personal life. By addressing mental health openly and honestly, you are helping your child prioritize their well-being and set themselves up for success in college and beyond.

Helping Your Child Thrive at College

Being the parent of a college-bound student can be both exciting and overwhelming. However, you can be intentional to avoid common mistakes that can hinder your child's personal growth and academic success. Keeping these common mistakes in mind and having open, supportive communication with your child can help them thrive in their college experience and beyond.

In the process of helping your student plan for college? Check out our article on College Planning Questions You Should Discuss as a Family for tips on how you can support your student.