5 Things I Learned From Being on a College Parents Message Board

Two weeks before my oldest son graduated from college, I found the official university parents board for his school. I had no idea the Facebook group even existed and I must confess, I'm kind of glad I was oblivious. I was surprised at what I found the parents asking and how involved the parents were in their young adults life. Kids are being raised with their parents watching their every move, tracking their locations, and monitoring their grades and I can see that even after their children are tucked away safely in their dorms, that they are having a hard time letting go. I think we can all agree that there is a fine line between being an involved parent and over-parenting. The role of a parent can get really tricky as our kids become more independent and start heading out into the world on their own. Here are 5 things I learned from watching other parents navigate launching their children into independence. 

tips for parenting college students

5 Things I Learned From Being on a College Parents Message Board

tips for parenting college students

1. Being Over Involved Doesn't Help Anyone

I've seen parents looking for housing for their students, researching the perfect dorm for incoming freshmen, and asking about meal delivery services they can send their kids who are "burnt out" on cafeteria food. At what point do we allow our young adult children to start navigating the world on their own? 

By constantly stepping in, you are actually diminishing your teens' ability to navigate the world on their own. When parents do everything for their children, the children then have a harder time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. 

2. Parents Want to Still Be Needed

I've noticed that the older my kids get, and the more independent they are, I do enjoy the times when I am still needed in their lives. However, continuing your desire to be needed isn't helping your teen to learn how to be self-reliant. In fact, it's creating a dependency for them to need other people when they are more than capable of navigating adulthood on their own. 

The next time they call asking for you to help them research a professor for a class or you find yourself texting about a test or particular questions on a quiz, take a step back and ask yourself if you being involved is taking control and power away from your child. If it is, work on ways to remove yourself from the situation. 

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3. Letting Go Can Be Hard

I don't know many parents who are parenting children with the desire to keep them under their roof for all of eternity. But when the reality of letting go sets in, parents can find themselves wanting to hold on. We want to protect our kids and see them succeed in life, but holding on too tight has its downsides.

Your teens should be making decisions on their own. As your child gets older, parenting needs to shift to giving guidance and support and away from telling our teens what they should do. If you are asking questions that end with "help us decide" on a message board, is your teen or young adult really in the driver's seat or are you holding on tighter to them then you should be?

4. Let Them Experience Failure

As parents, we've provided that safety net for our kids during their childhoods. We've helped them come up with solutions to problems and made phone calls and sent e-mails on their behalf, but once your child graduates high school and moves on to college, parents need to allow their kids the chance to experience failure. 

Failure is a necessary component of success. If you take a moment to think about your biggest mistakes, you'll probably find that they are also steeped in the biggest lessons. Those mistakes probably taught you more about courage and strength and about your grit than any success could have. It's important to gradually step away, to release control and let our kids experience failure, even though failure as a young adult can have bigger consequences. 

tips for parenting college students

5. Set up a Communication Plan

I was surprised to see that parents on these university message boards were in constant communication with their college students. Technology makes communication far easier than it was when we were in school, but that doesn't mean it's better. 

Parents need to give their students some space or they create a dependency that's not necessary. When I was in college, I used my calling card to call my parents every Sunday, something I still do to this day. I had requested the same from my son when he was in college. A brief check-in once a week helps us to still stay connected and involved in the fringes of his life. 

tips for parenting young adults

This parenting gig isn't for the faint of heart. It's tough raising kids, especially kids you actually really like and then releasing them into the world, but parents hear me out, letting go is necessary. Your young adult children need to start experiencing life without you. Trust that you've given them the skills they need to navigate the world without you.

I was part of the university parents board for about a month and after biting my tongue as parents asked questions on behalf of their children that they should have been letting their college kids handle, I had to hit unsubscribe. I've left the group, not at all disappointed that I didn't find it in the first few weeks of my son's university experience like I had initially thought, but instead relieved that I had the opportunity to navigate my own release of the reigns. I'm not unsubscribed from my young adult's life, but instead, I'm letting him subscribe to his own way of doing life and trusting that we've equipped him with what he needed to do just that.

Read more:

10 ways you can help your college student survive and thrive freshman year

The essential guide to going out of state for college

How to make a dorm room feel like home

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1 comment

Unknown said...

It is REINS, not REIGNS. The difference between straps that guide an animal, and the one who holds royal office.

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