Parenting a college student

For more than 30 years, Emory University psychology professor Marshall Duke has given an annual speech to auditoriums full of nervous parents preparing to leave their child at the university. Covering everything from resisting daily communication to letting students solve their own problems, Duke’s entertaining and frank speeches provide practical advice about what parents can expect during a student’s first year of classes and how to adjust to the changes in their lives and their child’s.

Here’s a video of one of his speeches.

Duke will soon give his last parent speeches at Emory’s orientation this weekend (he’s not retiring; he’s just decided it’s time to step aside). Whoever gives this speech in the future has some very big shoes to fill. For any parent who is a soon-to-be empty nester, this video is full of good advice, told in a candid, heartfelt and at times very funny way. Here are a few nuggets of Duke’s wisdom for parents of new college students:

  • Prepare meaningful parting words for your child (I love you, I'm proud of you, I'll always be there for you) or write a handwritten letter to express your feelings.
  • Don't change your child's room for at least the first year at school – they may need a safe haven.
  • Don't expect daily contact or initiate it.
  • Don't expect the same grades your child had in high school – college doesn't produce nearly as many A's as some parents and student are accustomed to.
  • When a problem arises, move like your feet are stuck in molasses – give your child a chance to solve the problem independently.