How Parents Can Help

Leaving for college is a big step — for you as well as for your son or daughter. In a sense, they are leaving home and taking a step into a new world. Your relationship is changing and it's not always easy to know how best to support your child so you can be most helpful. After observing hundreds of college students and their parents negotiate these often tricky emotional waters, we've developed the following five tips for parents that, when followed, almost universally make the adjustment easier on both sides and lead to a stronger, healthier relationship through adulthood.

1. Step Back. Let Your Student Take Responsibility.

It can be difficult at first, but part of getting out on your own is being able to rely on yourself. Fight the urge to "fix or solve" problems for your son or daughter. It's a real confidence builder to take charge and work things out on your own.

2. Avoid Saying Things Like 'These Are the Best Years of Your Life.'

From choosing a major to passing an exam, students face pressures and challenges while in college that at times can seem stressful, even overwhelming. Parents can best support their children by recognizing this and not making comments that can subtly add pressure.

3. Visit Campus — But Not Too Frequently.

You miss your son or daughter. They miss you. But give them some space to get settled in their new college life. Plan a visit every few months, so your student can show you his or her dorm room and activities. By keeping visits short and well timed, you help assure that your arrival is always welcomed.

4. Keep In Touch, Even If They Don't

Don't be hurt if your son or daughter doesn't call or contact you as often as you'd like. Send a short e-mail or note keeping them informed about news from home each week. It keeps the connection strong even while they are away. And don't ask about homesickness. Be supportive and positive about their efforts to get an education.

5. Trust Your Sons and Daughters

You've raised your children. Now let them test their wings. Relax, enjoy the inevitable changes that will come as your children grow. Have faith in the good job you've done in raising them. They won't disappoint you.