How Can I Help My Son Adjust to College?

By Karen Levin Coburn


My son is going to college this fall, his first time away from home and on his own. My biggest concern is that he will not focus without his mother and me pushing him. How about some pointers to help him be successful without interfering with his freedom?


Though it may be tempting to try to tell your son all of the things you fear you haven't emphasized enough over the past 18 years, lectures just won't work. He's likely to roll his eyes and shut his ears if you start to lecture. Have faith in the job you have done as a parent. You have been teaching him step-by-step from the earliest days - from learning to share toys to keeping track of homework assignments to managing his allowance. This is just one more step - though a big one on his journey to independence.

So what can you do now?

  • Help him set up a financial system. Draw up a tentative budget and talk about responsible use of credit cards.
  • Talk about how you will keep in touch.
  • Reassure him that you have faith in him.
  • Make arrangements for continuity of care if your son has any chronic illnesses or is on medication.
  • Read the parents' handbook and become familiar with the college's Web site.
  • Learn about the resources at your son's school so you can coach him as the semester progresses to use the resources at hand - whether it's for academic help, counseling or career advice.

Karen Levin Coburn is the assistant vice chancellor for students and associate dean for freshman transition at Washington University. She is also the coauthor of Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.