Help! My Child’s In College: 6 things to remember for college parents

I have learned many things as a university professor, youth pastor, and parent of 6 children. Here are 6 things for college parents should remember.

college parents1. Being top of the class is overrated.

I’ve worked with many students who were top of their class, but still failed to succeed long after they’ve graduated.

In her book, Lives of Promise: What Becomes of High School Valedictorian, Professor Arnold states it best when she said – “while these students had the attributes to ensure school success, these characteristics did not necessarily translate into real-world success…. To know that a person is a valedictorian is only to know that he or she is exceedingly good at achievement as measured by grades. It tells you nothing about how they react to the vicissitudes of life.”

If your child strives to be their best, or become the top of their class, then let them go. However, pressuring them to get high grades, just for bragging rights may make you feel better, but may not be in your child’s best interest.

2. Not every bad grade is a problem.

There are many reasons why students do poorly in class.  Yet there are 3 basic reasons a student fails a class.

  1. They’re incapable of keeping up with the class.
  2. They’re constantly late or miss class often.
  3. They’re distracted, disinterested and feel the class is a waste of their time.

Sometimes failing a class is just the kick in the pants every university student needs. However, many failures may show a more significant problem. So before you freak out, find out what the real problem is. This is accomplished by keeping in regular contact with your child and allowing your child to openly discuss things without fearing your disapproval or consternation.

3. It’s only the first step to adulthood

I’m often surprised at the expectations of my colleagues towards their students.  For some reason, they seem to believe that college students have the ability to act like mature adults. You know like all those other adults who pay attention, keep track of assignments, respect authority, do all their work, show up on time and do all the other things asked of them… Blah, Blah, Blah.

Then there those who say: ‘Oh, MY child would never act like all those other wild college kids, because they are mature for their age.”  Well, they may be mature for their age, but it doesn’t mean they will act that way when they enter college.You must remember that when children are young they have a huge group of people helping them along the way.  We had teachers, parents, siblings, coaches, pastors, school

You must remember that when children are young they have a huge group of people helping them along the way.  We had teachers, parents, siblings, coaches, pastors, school aides, crossing guards, authority figures and even our friend’s parents all watching out for us. This huge group of people helped keep us in line.

However, in college, they really don’t have anyone watching out for them.  Expect for maybe all their “new found” friends.  Who, of course, are the same age and want to experience all the “adult things” they saw others doing while growing up.

So when do we become mentally and emotionally mature enough to be considered adults?

I believe maturity for most of us begins at about 25.

To back up my idea, let’s look at research from MIT entitled:  YOUNG ADULT DEVELOPMENT PROJECT “According to recent findings, the human brain does not reach full maturity until at least the mid-20s. (See J. Giedd in References.) The specific changes that follow young adulthood are not yet well studied, but it is known that they involve increased myelination and continued adding and pruning of neurons. As a number of researchers have put it, “the rental car companies have it right.” The brain isn’t fully mature at 16, when we are allowed to drive, or at 18, when we are allowed to vote, or at 21, when we are allowed to drink, but closer to 25, when we are allowed to rent a car.

4. They probably will try a few things they know we disapprove of.

Sometimes it’s out of spite, sometimes from peer pressure and sometimes because they are truly interested in the experience.  So don’t freak out too quickly, it may just make them want to do it more.

Most likely it will just be a passing fad (like our next point). However, we do not necessarily have to fund all their endeavors.  It’s important that they have skin in the game, whether it’s taking out loans, working part-time, or using their own money for various activities.

5. They might change their mind frequently or become fervent in a cause.

There are so many new and interesting things they are learning that it’s hard to absorb.

One semester they may be raving about some new life philosophy. The next semester they’ve discovered impressionist paintings and want to become the next Van Gogh. Then they may decide to adopt “a cause” and attend rallies and meetings to voice their concern.

Yet in the end, never underestimate the values and morals you’ve instilled in them.  Have faith in your child that they will eventually find their way.  Like the Bible says, Train up a child in the way they should go, and they are old they will not depart.

Although they may sway from these through those early adult years.

6. They most likely will succumb to the pressure of finding a boyfriend or girlfriend

We all know that the biological clock keeps ticking regardless of how we may disprove of their choice.

However, the pressure in college to “have a boyfriend or girlfriend” is intense.  I have known many students who started going out with someone, just to get their friends off their back (or just to tick off their parents).

Regardless of the reason, most college students want to find intimacy with someone, and they will spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to find someone to fit the bill.

This is why its vital that they know they have your affection and support while they stumble through this process.

In the end, our job as parents is to continue to support them through this process of becoming mature adults and making their own way in the world. And of course eventually giving us grandchildren so we can spoil them and then give them back…