Family Support When Going To College Is So Important (Must Read For All Parents)

Female wearing a black graduation gown being kissed on the cheek by a family member. This shows family support.

The importance of family support when going to college is significant. According to recent studies, students with family support are more likely to succeed academically than those without them. The support I’m talking about is not financial, it’s the kind of support that money can’t buy— emotional support. Emotional support is about providing reassurance, encouragement, comfort, empathy, acceptance, trust, and love. Emotional support shows a greater impact on students than any other type.

I have considerable experience with parental emotional support. I received my AS Degree in Business Administration at 17, earned my BS in Business Entrepreneurship at 19, my MBA in Entrepreneurship and Global Business at 20, and by 21 I was a manager at a Fortune 500 Company. I had a tremendous amount of support from my family during college and I know without a doubt that support made a difference.

Going To College Is A Hard Transition

For a student, the transition from high school to college is a big stepping stone on the path to adulthood. It’s an exciting time. The move, though full of opportunity and promise does come with uncertainty, stress, and challenge. For some students, college represents independence, adventure, and growth for other students college can be an extraordinarily tough and even dangerous time in their lives.

Anxiety and depression are the top reasons college students seek mental health counseling. Research shows that 1 in 5 college students are affected by anxiety or depression because they are not ready to handle all the pressure, decisions, and responsibility that comes with being a college student. As a parent, you invested a tremendous amount of support, dedication, time, energy, and resources in getting your child to college. That support shouldn’t end when your child goes to college. They need you more now than ever.

I was a very disciplined and confident student. I knew what I wanted out of college. However, I wasn’t fully ready to solve all my problems, make all my own decisions, choose a university, choose all my courses, pick my major, and create my academic plan all alone. Not only did I need guidance, but I also wanted it. I found I was more confident when making some decisions with my parents. Knowing that I had their support with the choices I had made was very beneficial.

Create A Strong Family Support System

Be supportive. This may seem obvious, but it is an important part of helping your child through their college experience. Your academic and moral support will prepare them for the real world as well. Even though this is a time in their life when they begin to become more self-sufficient, your support can help them through hard times and tough decisions. This helps prepare them for future difficulties that they may encounter in life. It builds confidence and resistance.

I encourage you to read the benefits of community college as well as the benefits of students living at home. Both, living at home and attending a community college can be some of the best academic, financial, and emotional decisions a student can make. Before sending your child off to college it’s important to consider both options.

To Create Strong Support Become A-Team

You are your child’s first line of support as well as their best advocate. No one wants to see them succeed more than you. Supporting your child isn’t always easy but if you become a team with them the process should run a little smoother.

Work together to develop and create a plan of expectations. Talk about how involved you will be and how much support they are looking for. You are not there to make decisions for them, you are there to guide and support them as they make their own. Don’t forget, you have something very valuable—time and experience. You are older and wiser. Your advice will be valuable. You may be able to steer them around problems and guide them to make calculated and educated decisions.

It’s important not to forget, that this is their time to practice independence, make their own decisions, and take on more responsibility for their education and choices. Encourage their independence and problem-solving and give guidance when needed or asked for.

Working as a team doesn’t mean you will never disagree. You’re going to disagree, that’s a given. It’s how you handle the disagreements that will make the difference. Be flexible and compromise.

Family Support Can Help With Stress Management

Parents can play a significant role to help their college student manage their stress. Helping them learn to cope with stress is an important skill that will be beneficial throughout their life. It’s not always easy to recognize when someone is stressed out. However, you know your child best, be on the lookout for any changes.

Proper rest and nutrition can significantly help with stress. Make sure they are eating and sleeping well. A good night’s sleep allows a brain to recharge and repair. A good diet provides the body nourishment it needs to handle stress.

Make time to listen to your student. Sometimes it’s not even necessary to give advice, sharing what they are struggling with might be all that they need. Allow them to talk openly and honestly. Even if they can’t pinpoint their exact stress, just having you to talk to can make all the difference.

Talking Isn’t Always Necessary

If your student doesn’t want to talk suggest a physical activity. Exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins which helps relieve stress. Even if they are not interested in a strict exercise regimen, regular activity of any kind can provide an opportunity to unwind or meet up with friends. Go for a walk or hike. Being in nature can be very stress-relieving. Have them brush, bathe, or walk a pet. Encourage them to download an app for meditation or breathing exercises. Play a board or card game with them.

a mother sitting outside at a café sipping on coffee with her two children who are students. She is giving them family support and spending time with them

As mentioned before anxiety and depression among college students are very common. Stress is the number one trigger. If left unmanaged, anxiety and depression can lead to withdrawal from those around them, failing classes, dropping out, or even alcohol or drug abuse. According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), 44.9% of college students experience more than average stress levels, while 12.7% experience overwhelming stress levels. With academic demands and the responsibilities of being a student, some stress is normal. It’s the high levels that become worrisome. Learning good stress management skills and having the support of family can help with feeling overwhelmed. Developing coping skills during college will be beneficial when they become employees, employers, or have a family of their own.

Check-In With Your Student To Show Family Support

Life can get very busy for both parents and a student, before you know it the days have turned into weeks and the weeks have turned into months. It’s important to “check-in” on your student from time to time. This can be a little tricky. Being supportive without coming off as overbearing can be a fine line.

The goal is to “see” how they are doing. It might be an academic check-in, or you might touch base on how they’re doing emotionally, psychologically, or physically. You can also assess if they are using good time management skills, if are they procrastinating, or if are they motivated. I remember when my dad checked in and asked if I had gotten my oil changed. It had slipped my mind and the service was way overdue. I appreciated the reminder. It prompted me to get my tires rotated too.

Checking in with your student regularly can help them stay focused and on track. Sometimes all that is needed is a gentle reminder. Checking in can identify possible concerns or stresses. In addition, it prompts communication, which allows a student to share struggles and successes.  

Be sure to read, How Students Can Create Motivation For Success.

But I’m A Parent Who Didn’t Go To College

If you are a parent that didn’t attend college, you may think you don’t have a lot to offer or you are somehow less capable of supporting your child. That is simply not true. Knowing the ins and outs of college may not be something you are familiar with, but they are not familiar to your student either. Spend a little time on this website, read the articles and learn some of the tips and tricks to getting through college efficiently. What you learn, you can share with your student. You can become college senseis together.