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Parents’ Guide to the Unexpected in College

These situations are called unexpected for a reason: they materialize out of thin air with absolutely no warning and are poised to ruin a perfectly flawless plan for college. While it’s hard to fathom every possible scenario that could play out, here are a few collegiate parents encounter.

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“I’m Taking a Year Off”

Your child has been accepted to college, of their first choice– but after a year of exemplary grades and a positive campus experience, they sit you down and reveal they’d like to take a year off. While your initial response may be to rebuke, keep listening for the reason behind their departure from school.

“Mom, Dad…Meet My Someone”

Young love. Though only 15 percent of people meet their future spouses in college , you should be prepared for your son or daughter to call you one day and invite you to meet their significant other. When you’re finally introduced to this special someone, however, they may not be exactly who you envisioned.

“How Do You Like My Tattoo?”

When your child starts attending college, they gain much more freedom than they had in high school and many take advantage of this increased autonomy to the fullest degree. They may dye their hair, grow goatees, pierce their tongues and begin quests to tattoo every square inch of their bodies because, as with relationships, college is a time for experimentation. Here’s what to do when your child comes home for winter break looking much different than when they had left.

“Can I Get Your Advice on Something?”

For years, you were probably your child’s go-to source for advice. That may still hold true to some degree when they leave for college but chances are, they would now rather go to a roommate or significant other for counsel. When they come to you saying they have an issue your expertise can remedy, it’s hard not to dive right in and begin working your parental magic.

“But I Thought We Were Friends?”

As children age, it becomes easier to think of them as friends rather than the six-year old you still remember. This mentality can become problematic, however, when you’re paying for their tuition and they make a decision they know you would vehemently oppose. You can no longer revoke their allowance or send them to the time-out chair. Disciplining a child is an already tricky topic but when that child is old enough to vote and join the military, the situation becomes even more convoluted.

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Last Reviewed: September 2022