How to Support Your Child in College

Even though there are parenting stretches that seem like they’ll never end, getting your kid to sleep through the night is one, it’s also common to feel as though the years pass in a flash. It can certainly feel this way when the child you could once easily hold in your arms is as tall as you are, or taller, and heading off to college.

Kids of all ages still need their mothers, even in adulthood, but navigating a relationship with your child while they are attending college can be tricky at times. The good news is that you do not have to have a perfect plan in place out of nowhere.

There are steps to take and things to consider so that you can design this next phase of parenting in a way that makes sense for you and your family. 

Letting Go

There’s something of an irony to the fact that as a mother, you may feel an overwhelming urge to keep your child close even though truly successful parenting means letting go. It’s important to let yourself feel emotions such as regret, sadness and grief while also recognizing that you do need to let your child go their own way.

Remember when you had to organize your home for a new baby to arrive? Same needs to happen now.

College students still need a fair amount of support, but they don’t need you to do things for them as they may have when they were younger. Your relationship with them is undergoing a major transition, and you are on your way to one in which you are two adults instead of an adult and a child.

This can be hard to adjust to. Think of your role at this point as more of a wise advisor.

Help With Finances

Most parents help their kids with college expenses although the extent to which this is possible in any individual family varies a great deal. Some parents might be able to cover most or all the costs of the college, but it’s much more common for students to put together a mix of funding, including scholarships and loans.

One problem students may run into is not being able to get enough in federal loans and having to turn to private loans. 

Unfortunately, private loans may not lend to people with little credit history, which describes most high school students getting ready to attend college.

They usually need a cosigner. This may have raised a question for you in should I cosign a private student loan?

The answer is not as simple as you might think. You certainly want to help your kid out, but there can be drawbacks to being a cosigner, and you should ask some questions before you agree. You can also do things such as help your child figure out what their general cost of living will be and put together a budget.

Academic and Career Support

Some parents can get very hands-on with helping their child choose classes, a major and a career, especially if they are paying for a large part of the college education. However, it’s important to let your kid do their own thing.

Just because you dreamed of a particular career path for yourself or for them doesn’t mean that they’re going to follow it or that they would be happy doing so.

You may be frustrated because you think they should study something practical or because you’re worried they won’t be able to get a job after they graduate.

Ultimately, however, you must let them make these decisions and live with the consequences, and in the end, you may not be right about those consequences anyway.


It can be challenging finding a way to stay in touch with grown children that optimizes for both their needs and yours. If your kid texts you every time they encounter a conflict or challenge for advice, you may need to wean them off this.

It’s great that they respect your opinion, but they need to respect their own as well and learn to handle situations without having to always consult you first. At the other end of the spectrum, you may want to establish periodic check-ins with a more independent and less communicative kid.

Try to make these something that’s easy for them to do, such as a quick weekly chat that they can fit it around their schedule. If they tend to be reticent, gently draw them out instead of making them feel interrogated.

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