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Improving Communication With Your College Student

Improving Communication With Your College Student

Understanding the barriers to parent-college student communication is a critical step toward providing practical support for college students.

It is challenging for many parents to change the style of interaction from parent–child to one ‘approaching adult-adult.’  The fact is, if your student has been living out of your home while in college, he or she has been making many adult-level decisions such as what to eat, when to go to bed, whether to drink/smoke/take other drugs, as well as regarding finances, health, and relationship/sexuality issues. 

Understandably, you are curious to know how your child is faring in making such important decisions, but it can be difficult to find out. In a research study done at the University of Minnesota, parents say the most challenging topics to talk about with their child is sex (29 percent), romantic relationships (17 percent), finances (15 percent), mental health (7 percent), academics (5 percent), and religion (5 percent).

This research also found that parents' number one barrier to discussion is concern that it will make their student uncomfortable.  Other barriers include:

  • Concern that the conversation will turn into an argument
  • Feeling uncomfortable
  • Believing that your child won't want to talk about the topic
  • Lacking information
  • Not wanting to upset the student

Understanding the barriers to parent-college student communication is a critical step toward providing practical support for college students. However, you may also find that you need additional information and topic-specific guidance.

Resources

Authored by: Hall Health Center Health Promotion staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Mental Health Clinic staff, January 2014