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Advice for First-Time College Parents: Do Not Try This at Home

We want our sons and daughters to enjoy campus life, learn by their own successes and failures, and blossom into independent adults. We also want to know whether they are eating fruits and vegetables because what if they get constipated? Or scurvy?
09/18/2015 09:58am ET | Updated September 18, 2016
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Sending your child off to college for the first time can be confusing. We want our sons and daughters to enjoy campus life, learn by their own successes and failures, and blossom into independent adults. We also want to know whether they are eating fruits and vegetables because what if they get constipated? Or scurvy?

It's surprisingly tough to know where the line between helpful and harrassing falls. Luckily, help is available from experts, which now include me (according to me). Take heart, and follow this list of Dos and Don'ts:

DO text your student now and then to keep the lines of communication open.

DON'T send a series of increasingly frantic texts when you don't hear back within the hour, then start calling every ten minutes, then contact the police and demand to have your child's dorm room broken into because your baby must be lying unconscious on account of improper nutrition ... or meth.

DO send a care package in the first month with some fun items your student can share with new friends.

DON'T include any item that brought a tear to your eye during the move-out. This includes the binky, the wubby, Mr. Scootchie, Blue Bear, anything with handprints, petrified sweatsocks, or (even if you could get it out of the carpet) that gelatinous goo.

DO encourage your student to join clubs or activities to meet others with common interests.

DON'T attempt to influence your child to join the same clubs and activities you enjoyed in college, no matter how casual the hint: "Guess who I heard from? My best buddy Nanki-Poo from the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Now, that was a wild and crazy time! I think I have some pictures. Hold on a sec while I look under the mothballs in my hope chest."

DO discretely use the Find My Phone app to give yourself peace of mind that your student is in for the night.

DON'T panic when the app gets glitchy and shows your student in an off campus hookah lounge at midnight when you know in your heart your angel must be at the pizza place next door. YES HE IS IT'S A GLITCH JUST SHUT UP OK? Don't jump to conclusions.

DO plan to visit on Family Weekend and let your student take the lead on planning activities you can enjoy together.

DON'T show up two hours early dressed from head to toe in spirit wear, waving copies of a jam-packed schedule pre-highlighted with every event your family will attend, especially when "family" includes grandparents on both sides, and your sister, and her husband, and their baby. (The baby's so cute in that university onesie. Still, don't.)

There you have it. With just a few sensible guidelines that counteract every parenting instinct, you can maintain a helpful and healthy relationship with your college student. At least until Thanksgiving Break.

Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku. Follow her on Facebook in case she launches a camera drone over the hookah lounge.