As a parent, learning how to communicate with college students can be a challenge. Adjusting to college is an emotional transition for the whole family, but keep in mind that this is an important phase in a young adult’s life that helps to prepare them for the real world.
They will inevitably experiment, make mistakes, fall down, and get back up. Hopefully, you’ll be the one they turn to when they need help. If you maintain a strong connection without overdoing it, they might even divulge more of the good times and you’ll be able to share in the full experience of their new adventure.
Here are some tips for parents on how to communicate with college students and some good things to talk about.
How to Communicate
Be Their Ally
It’s tempting to want to make sure your kid is taking care of themselves: Are they eating enough vegetables? Are they making friends with everyone on their floor? Are they partying too much?
Your parental instincts are inevitable, but to them it may feel like you’re nagging. Try to play it cool and be their ally. Of course, it’s important to check in on them and make sure everything’s okay, but you’d be surprised to find that the more freedom you give them to make their own decisions, the more they may share with you.
Let Them Know They Can Talk to You
Along with being their ally, it’s also important for them to feel comfortable talking to you about more serious things. College is a major transition and many incoming students struggle with the adjustment.
If they are unhappy at their new school, they may be considering the possibility of transferring schools. It can be a good idea to make sure your son or daughter knows that they can talk to you about anything. That’s what parents are for, after all.
Video chat is an incredible tool that wasn’t around back when parents were in college. If you and your kids have Apple devices, and especially if your son or daughter studies abroad or chooses a school far away, making a FaceTime call is considered one of the best ways to communicate with your child.
If you don’t have Apple devices, you can also make video calls with What’sApp, Skype, Google Hangout, Facebook Messenger, and many more. If your son or daughter is not one to call you every day, you could set up a time once a week to catch up.
What to Talk About
While it may be forgotten among all the exciting aspects of college, taking advantage of the incredible educational resources on campus, working hard, and getting a solid education are the some of the main reasons for attending university.
Without scaring your student, remind them that grades could have an impact on their plans after graduation, and one bad grade could affect their GPA more than one good one.
Play to Your Strengths
While we’re on the topic of academics, you can also get involved in your child’s studies, aside from reminding them to focus: help them choose classes for their first semester; reread some Nietzsche or Aristotle along with them; or offer to be a second set of eyes for their papers. When they are choosing their major, you could help them realize what it is they’re passionate about.
There are some things you should periodically bring up with your student that they likely won’t enjoy talking about, which involves money management, including student loans and budgeting. While these might not be on their list of the best ways to communicate with college students, it’s your duty as the parent to remind them.
It’s considered important to have an ongoing dialogue about student loans and educate them on how not to make their debt even higher.
This is a conversation that can begin in high school when making the decision on which college to attend and what the financial impact will be for them and for you in the years to come.
As for budgeting, know that many young adults make financial mistakes in their early twenties. This is what mistakes are for—to learn from them and adjust your habits moving forward.
But if you can teach your student good spending habits, especially if this is their first time with a credit card, they’ll be thankful to you in the long run.
You may have a son or daughter who has dreamed of going to med school since they were little, but most students are unsure of what they want to do with their future, and this will likely be a common thread throughout their four years in college.
Find ways to make this conversation exciting and optimistic without asking the question they’ve heard a million times: “What do you want to do with your life?” The truth is, they might not know, even upon graduation, and that’s okay.
If they are considering graduate school, it would be useful to discuss what’s involved financially. Will they need additional student loans for grad school? Will you be able to help with any costs?
While these are just some guidelines on how to communicate with college students, ultimately, the best approach for you and your child depends on your relationship and your personality.
It’s recommended for a parent find a healthy balance between staying involved and being overbearing. You can watch with pride from a healthy distance and still experience this exciting time in your child’s journey through young adulthood.
One Option for the Future
When you discuss some ways to deal with student loans after graduation, one avenue you can look into is student loan refinancing. It’s not for everyone—especially if you have federal loans and you plan to use their benefits and protections—but it could help you (or your student) lower your monthly payments or shorten your term.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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