The Gerber Life Parenting Blog

Parenting College-Age Children

April 13, 2015

Mom & College Age DaughterAs recent high school graduates prepare for college or full-time work, they may be ready to break from the reins of family life and discover who they are away from the family nest. This can be extremely challenging for parents who are used to helping their children deal with every drama and emergency, real or imagined.

College-age children still need parental guidance and support. The question is how to support them and how much support to give.

From Helicopter Parenting to Hands Off?

It’s been widely reported that “helicopter” parenting can hurt college-age children, cause depression and undermine their ability to cope with everyday situations. Instead, parents should give their kids the freedom to face the challenges of early adulthood while also giving them a safe place to land. When your child has an issue, be supportive, but express confidence in your child’s ability to deal with the issue.

When Should You Step In?

Experts agree that the time to step in and “parent” with a capital P is when a child’s behavior becomes troubling. If your child shows signs of substance abuse or depression, it’s time to talk to your child about the behavior and to help your child get the needed support. Often, this won’t be parental support, but likely the support of a third-party counselor. Many colleges have campus resources to help students deal with anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

Viewing Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

There’s no age limit for making mistakes. Your kids however, might not be used to the kinds of mistakes that come with adulthood. Regardless of the kind of mistake, it’s important to treat each one as a learning opportunity for your child. Every mistake, no matter how big or small, can become an important stepping stone in your child’s life, as long as it is acknowledged and dealt with maturely.

Trusting Your Kids and Your Parenting

At the end of the day, the parent and adult child relationship comes down to trust. It’s likely that your college-age child is ready to face whatever comes next, so trust your child’s instincts as well as the job that you’ve done thus far as a parent. This is new territory for the both of you, so it will take some time to get used to your new roles.


1) Everyday Health
2) NPR
3) Reuters
4) The Boston Globe
5) Child Mind Institute

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Categories: Parenting Tips
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