Support Guide for Parents of High School & College Students

This article discusses effectively supporting your child while nurturing and growing your relationship with them.

By Sharon Callender — November 14, 2023

Support Guide for Parents of High School & College Students

Being a parent is an amazing adventure. Along the way, there are once in a lifetime moments that will always be embedded in your memory. Unforgettable milestones like your child's first words, first steps and when the training wheels came off the tricycle. You may also vividly remember the day you established a curfew, and their graduation ceremonies from nursery school and beyond. These are all significant thresholds that were crossed because of your help and loving support.

Parenting is also an opportunity that allows you to positively influence and guide your child's life. But this role can come with both joy and challenge as you discern how to navigate parenting your teenager who is a burgeoning adult. As you and your child experience this time of transition, you are both learning to swim in uncharted waters. Even if you have a strong recollection of how you were guided through this phase of life and what worked best for you, some of those approaches might not be as effective for your child and their unique way of being in the world. So how do you effectively support your child while nurturing and growing your relationship with them?

It can begin with taking these simple actions that reveal your devotion to their success and emotional wellness. Trying one or more of these action steps will help you channel your parenting superpowers!

Schedule Time to Unwind, Relax and Destress

We live in a world that is prone to multitasking and overscheduling. As a busy parent, your to-do list might be overwhelming at times. Your child also has a similar long list of obligations and responsibilities as well. One of the ways that you can support your high school or college student is by encouraging them to deliberately schedule time for relaxation and rest. You can hold each other accountable by sharing your own scheduled times with one another. Pencil in at least two 15 to 30-minute relaxation periods on your calendar per day. To nudge yourself set a timer on your phone.

This relaxation time may look like taking a mindful walk that allows you to be present with all that you are observing. Then consciously letting go of intrusive thoughts and stresses of the day with each exhale. Other options are meditating, stretching, deep breathing, reading a book or listening to relaxing music. This simple, intentional act is all about making yourself and your wellness a priority and leading your child to those healthy habits.

Another way to help your child destress is creating a playlist of songs that make them feel calm, centered, and focused. These songs might be beneficial to have playing in the background while they are studying, doing homework or just relaxing.

Craft your own playlist and let your child listen. Doing this is an opportunity to bond and connect over a common topic.

Intentional Screen Time

Inspiring your child to use social media in a constructive way can create better habits going forward in their lives. Scrolling endlessly through social media for long periods of time with no purpose in mind can lead to emotional stress and anxiety. It is an obvious waster of our most valuable asset which is time.

You can instill a purposeful approach to online time at home by challenging your child to research a particular topic for the week. For instance, you can ask them to look for healthy meals or dessert recipes online that take 30 minutes of meal prep. These recipes will be something that they will either help you cook or bake on their own. The point of this is to empower them to focus on searching for things that are adding value to their life experience rather than detracting from it. Some other topics might be searching for reviews on an item that you want to buy or a YouTube video on how to fix a certain item in the house or a home improvement task you are considering. You are completely capable of doing this yourself, but when you enlist their help, you are nurturing your child's curiosity and a knowing that you respect and value their perspective and opinion.

Volunteer Together

One of the greatest ways to support your child is to foster their compassion, kindness, and philanthropic spirit. Find a cause or organization that you both feel passionate about and can volunteer with. It might be working together at a local soup kitchen, running a food drive, or creating something that you can share with those who are financially struggling in your community.

Lesson Time

You can be an effective cheerleader in your child's life simply by asking questions. Ask them to tell you about the most interesting or surprising thing they learned in school today. Giving them permission to explain a lesson or concept that sparked their interest or felt important to them leaves the door of communication wide open. Allowing your child to share something that they are excited about shows how much you care about their day and what they experience. It goes beyond just asking how was your day? You are engaging them in a meaningful exchange and exhibiting your genuine curiosity. It is demonstrating your active and focused attention on what matters to them in that moment. Whether it was a science theory or a history lesson that piqued their interest, you are a witness and encourager of their enthusiasm.

Love and Gratitude

Does your child know how grateful you are for their unique presence in your life? Sharing your gratitude for who they are during the difficult teenage season of peer pressure and fitting in is an essential aspect of nurturing their self-image and self-esteem. Shine a light on their kindness, their willingness to help others, or even the resilience and determination they demonstrated when they did not let a roadblock set them back.

Show them that they are more than their accomplishments, the tests that they've passed, the athlete they are, the games they've won or the failures that they encountered. Expressing gratitude for their character builds a strong foundation for confidence, excellent leadership skills and self-love. The more you express your validation for the person they are growing into through their life experiences will also make them less susceptible to the negative influences around them.

Put your gratitude in writing in the form of a card or note, and they will have a tangible reminder of how much you love and believe in them.

When your child has a strong understanding of how worthy and loved they are, this awareness can reshape how they view themselves and what they are capable of when life gets tough.

Practical Considerations Before Choosing a College

Before you and your child make a final decision about a college, make sure they feel completely comfortable in the surrounding area of the campus. You may even want to explore the area online first. Search for the location on Google Maps and virtually stroll through the vicinity near the campus.

You might also want to consider answering the following questions to solidify their final choice: Is the campus too far or too close to a downtown area? Are there supermarkets/stores that are within walking distance? If not, does the school provide a shuttle or is their public transportation that is easily accessible if your child does not have a car? Does the school have a policy about first year students not being allowed to have a car on campus?

Your child may love the academic aspects of the school but if some of these items are not in alignment with their practical needs, it could be a deal breaker. Figuring out these logistical elements of a potential college ahead of time can be a time saver and will help you stay on track with your search.

When The First Year of College is Around the Corner

Get familiar with your child's college website, especially the financial aid, student accounts and registrar pages, as well as the academic catalog. Also make sure you are able to access the parent portal where you have important information at your fingertips. The more savvy you are with these items, the better it is for you and your child. With this knowledge, you can provide additional support if your child is struggling with clarity around a policy or a deadline that is in place. It allows you to be an active member on your child's success team along with their advisors and professors.

BETTER: Helping Your Child to be Better Everyday

When your child reaches high school and beyond, there are new rules in the game of parenting, but certain things will never change based on your profound love for them.

You can use the BETTER acronym to keep yourself grounded and focused as you supportively parent your teenager or young adult:

B — Being

Remember your presence and being there for your child means so much. You may not even realize how your ability to actively listen to them, noticing what matters in their world, and taking note of what they are doing and feeling, can help you support your child in a powerful way. Being present emotionally for your child is the greatest gift they could have.

E — Equipped

Are you taking excellent care of yourself, so you are equipped physically and emotionally to bring your best self to your role as parent? Are you exercising, finding "me" time for your well-being?

T — Time

Always take time to let your child know they are your number one priority.

T — Talk

Help them to know you are a safe space to share what is going on in their life. Create a space for both safety and expansion and encourage them to be fully themselves without judgment.

Keep the lines of communications open, especially when they are away at college. Via text or phone ask them questions like what made you laugh today? What frustrated you today? How are you feeling now that the day is over?

These questions can give you insight on what is going on in their world and enable you to figure out how you can support them if needed.

E — Express

Find ways every day to show and speak your love to your child. It might be saying I love you, cooking their favorite meal, texting them funny memes or a video call.

R — Respect

Encourage your child to have healthy boundaries in order to build and grow their self-worth and love for themselves.

Teaching your child how to love who they are, nurturing their confidence, guiding them into deeper independence and self-leadership, are all part of the incredible role you play as a parent. Your positive influence gives your child the courage and determination needed to be the best version of themselves in the world!

Sharon Callender

Sharon Callender

Rev. Sharon Callender is an interfaith minister, assistant registrar, and coach with certifications in life purpose, mindfulness & spiritual coaching. She specializes in helping individuals discover clarity, healing, and self-love through creative expression. Sharon is also a published fiction author and poet who is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree at The New Seminary.
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