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What Does Your College-Age Child Need From You?

Your child needs support—so your job isn't done.

Writer: Harold S. Koplewicz, MD

Clinical Expert: Harold S. Koplewicz, MD

en Español

Here are some important ways to support your child in college and to stay involved in his or her life despite the distance.

  • Establish regular times for phone calls and/or visits with your child.
  • Be aware of how your own college or first work experiences affect your expectations for your child.
  • Work toward creating a dynamic in which your child feels supported and heard, but try not to pry for information. Eighteen-year-olds, in particular, want to feel independent.
  • Remind your child that the first year away from home is a very difficult transition. While some teens are at ease from day one, there is no set time for “normal adjustment.” Leave the door open for conversations about the challenges and new responsibilities that come with attending college.
  • Discuss your expectations with regard to financial responsibility and school or work obligations.
  • Encourage your child to develop healthy friendships and to have a support system outside of the family. It’s a good idea to talk about what constitutes a “healthy” friendship, because teens, lacking in real-world experience, may be less selective when making friends in new social settings.
  • Prepare your child for new relationships, including sexual relationships. Talk about how to manage potential conflict with roommates as well as friends and boyfriends/girlfriends.
  • Discuss the consequences of risk-taking behaviors, drugs, and alcohol. While you’re at it, start a conversation about eating disorders, which are especially prevalent among college-aged women.
  • Talk to your child if you observe changes in emotions, behaviors, or social activities. These may be signs of a serious mental health problem.
  • Remind your teen, weekly—or even more often, if necessary—that help is available if he feels stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or sad.
This article was last reviewed or updated on October 30, 2023.