WT 025: How Do I Parent a Kid in College?

If you were one of the many parents—like Karen—who dropped their child off at college last month, the sad emotions might be fading and you might be left wondering: wait, how do I parent a kid in college?

Question 1: Our first child is off to college and we are so proud – but we are also so confused about where our parenting duties and boundaries end. I know she’s independent and is creating her own life, but I also want to make sure she knows that she can’t just do whatever she wants either. How do we find this balance?

Karen's Answer: Whew! I hear you and this one is hard! Keep in mind, you are still the parent and paying the bills, so as long as that is happening, you make the rules.

Our philosophy was that our child’s main job was to do well in school, since we are paying for it, we wanted them to pass.  We gave freedom to them while they were at college to do what they wanted, but they needed to ask permission for the bigger things like going somewhere over the weekend, or whatever.  When they came home, the rules of our house still applied.  So, curfew for them at college could be 2 a.m. but in our home it was 11. My house, my rules.

Give your child freedom to enjoy their college experience, but let them know if they don’t keep up their grades they will be coming home and getting a job.

Question 2: How do I ensure that my son still maintains his spiritual life when he’s at college. I have talked to him about finding a student ministry or church on campus, but it doesn’t seem like it’s at the top of his priority list. What did you do with your kids when they went to school?

Karen's Answer: You just hit the nail on the head, “Your son’s spiritual life”. It’s not yours.  You can guide him, but it’s up to him whether or not he wants it.  It’s hard and frustrating.  But, at some point us moms have to realize they are grown and make their own choices.

Question 3: My daughter LOVES to shop (she gets it from her mom!) – but I am able to see her bank account when she is away at school and I can see that she is blowing all of her money on clothes and going out to eat. We only pay for her housing and on-campus meal plan... so she is buying all of this with her own money from her part time job – but I just really want to step in and tell her to stop! Is that crossing a line?

Karen's Answer: You can suggest to stop, but it’s her money.  I think the best lesson is learned the hard way. We did the same thing with Kelsey when she went to college, paid for tuition and housing. Kelsey blew through her money and when it was gone she was sad. It about killed me to see her suffer, but I had to let her sit in it.  She’s been good with money ever since. :)

Step back and let it play out. Sit on your hand and tape your mouth shut if you have to.

Question 4: When my son is away at college, we have the parenting boundaries figured out really well. But when he’s home for either a weekend or a holiday it seems like there’s always a new bridge to cross. Recently, it’s been his curfew. When I tell him what time I’d like him home, he reminds me that he stays out until 2 or 3 am when he’s at school. I don’t want him to dread coming home, but I also want him to know that it’s my house and my rules when he’s here. Any tips?

Karen's Answer: I agree with you. I tell my kids, I’m old and I cannot sleep until all my chickens are in the house.  So, my house, my rules. Trust me, mine still came home, laundry, food and money will always bring them home!

Moms, we know your time is precious. Thank for spending it with us. We hope you feel encouraged, equipped and most importantly—the peace of God.

If you have a question about motherhood I want to hear it, so make sure you visit birdsonawiremoms.com/askkaren and tune in each week to see if we cover your question.

Thank you moms, have a great day!