The first month of school: A college parent’s guide

This might show up at your front door — and that’s OK, as long as you’re not rushing to his every need.

It’s nearing the end of week one of freshman year. Maybe, confronted with the first heaping mess of his college clothing career, your son digs up some change and heads to the laundromat. Just as likely, he’ll drag a hamper home for the weekend.

While some students see dormitories as arsenals of independence, others still depend on their parents. The key to a smooth transition is to maintain “a healthy level of interdependence,” says Matthew Patashnick, director of parent and family programs at Columbia University. “Parents need to find a way to empower their freshmen while fighting the urge to act on their behalf.”

Take academics: The jarring nature of university curriculum leaves many “moaning and groaning about the amount of reading to be done,” says Marie Carr, author of “The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual: Sending Your Child to College.”

But before you try to set up a parent-professor meeting, encourage your student to take initiative. “This is the perfect opportunity for them to discover campus resources such as academic advisors and free tutoring,” says Carr.

Challenges often persist beyond the classroom. From complaining about food quality to demanding the replacement of an irksome roommate, the best solution requires “allowing the child to deal with uncomfortable situations on his/her own,” says Patashnick. “Familiarize yourself with university support systems to point students in the appropriate direction.”


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