Whether you’re a parent who rejoices when your nest becomes empty or you cry for days, here are 11 ways parents can support their college students throughout their college years.
Are your kids away at college or getting ready to fly the nest? You may be wondering what you can do to make their transition easier on them and less sad for you. There are simple ways to support your college students from afar that will leave you feeling confident that they are well-prepared. And, when your kids are well-prepared, you can get busy shopping for their next care package!
1. Make yourself available.
When your kid calls, make yourself available to talk or listen … whatever they need!
I used to love getting those calls and I’d drop everything in order to hear my kids’ voices and listen to what’s going on in their lives. If you can’t talk, send them a quick text telling them when you’ll call.
Although I don’t love sleeping with my phone next to my bed, I did it anyway … just in case one of the kids wanted to talk or needed something. It made me feel better to know they could reach me at any hour.
A few of my daughter’s friends had a regular time when they talked to their parents on the phone each week. Kind of like a phone date with their parents. If you set a phone date, be sure to make yourself available throughout the week, too.
2. Communicate often.
Communication doesn’t have to be through phone calls. Sometimes you may struggle to come up with a reason to call but you don’t have to have a reason. A simple picture or text is enough to keep the communication lines open.
Send pictures from home through text.
Sometimes words aren’t necessary but a quick picture, in the moment, is all it takes to stay connected.
- Send a picture of a pet.
- Share what you’re doing with a picture.
- Snap a picture of the view in front of you.
Share a meme.
See a funny meme? Share it with your college student. Maybe they’ll send one back to you.
Text on a regular basis.
If your college student doesn’t object, text them regularly so they know you can be reached at any time. Learn these text message symbols so their messages aren’t interpreted wrong and use a few when you text them. They’ll probably be surprised you know them!
3. Send care packages.
Sending care packages was just as much for me as it was for my college kids! I enjoyed shopping for them and putting boxes together that I hoped would put a smile on their faces. Space is limited when you live in a dorm so I tried to send things that could be consumed, holiday decor, something I knew they wanted, or a fun novelty thing that no one would feel bad to throw away.
My son didn’t necessarily enjoy dorm life and looked forward to the care packages I sent. There was one particular time he said the package came at just the right time! In that package was a small LEGO set I knew he wanted and he was so surprised that I remembered he had wanted it.
Our daughter enjoyed the extra snacks I sent and every once in a while I’d send a gift card to spend in her college town, too!
4. Provide financial help.
Set a monthly budget you’re able to give your college student and provide it on the same day each month so they know they can count on it. Help them create a realistic budget for each month so you can be sure to provide for their basic needs. This is their time to learn to budget the money they have and to decide if they need to supplement the amount by doing a side gig.
5. Set up a bank account that you both have access to.
This was particularly helpful when my daughter was studying in Austria. I was able to deposit money in her account so she could access it. Venmo is also a good option for getting money to your college student.
6. Use Amazon Prime Student.
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It’s so easy to get the things you need through Amazon Prime. Whether you want to send something straight to your student or they want to order something for themselves. An Amazon Prime Student membership makes getting what you need just a few clicks away.
7. Sign up for Netflix.
College kids need downtime! Watching movies on their laptops gives them a brain break and a little time to relax. If you pay for the Netflix account, it makes it easy for them to sign on and watch.
8. Make sure you have the right documents in place.
There are legal forms you will want to have in place when your child moves off to college. Mama Bear Legal Forms is an excellent resource for this.
9. Make yourself available to proofread papers.
The subject matter may be uninteresting or beyond your scope of knowledge but taking time to proof your college student’s papers is a great way to support them from afar.
I’ve actually learned quite a bit by proofreading papers and some are rather interesting!
10. Be willing to help the way your student needs you to.
One of our kids was at college just a 2-1/2 hour drive away. When she came home for breaks, I would drive down to pick her up and then drive her back again. The public transportation system was a hassle to deal with and put her in situations that I wasn’t comfortable with so I happily drove the five hours round trip to get her home. Those trips are now fond memories as we had our favorite places to stop along the way.
My son’s college was just 45 minutes away and he needed to be home on weekends to work with his band. Oftentimes, he rode home with friends and I took him back to the dorm early Monday mornings.
If your student has a car at school, they may need help scheduling a service appointment or figuring out an urgent care to go to.
Each one of your college kids will be different in the way they ask for help. Be willing to meet them where they are!
11. Be flexible.
There’s a lot of advice out there to not visit your college kids for the first few months and to encourage them to stay the course. While that advice may be best for some, it isn’t for all. There have been many instances where college students haven’t liked their environment or school choice but have been encouraged to stay anyway. I’m all for finishing the current quarter or semester but why stay in a place you don’t want to be? There could be a better option! Be flexible with your kids and really listen to their needs.
Our son attended his first year of college online because of the pandemic. The following year, he moved on campus to live the dorm life. He was miserable and didn’t want to be there. We listened and he has now found a better fit for him!
It’s difficult to move your kids away from home and into a college dorm. I remember bawling half of the 2-1/2 hour car ride home after leaving our daughter at college. When I got home, I made myself busy by creating a care package for her and, somehow, creating that small care package brought joy.
It’s comforting to know you are just a phone call away from your college kids. Take simple steps to support them from afar and, as an added bonus, supporting them will make you feel better as well!