Letting Go/Giving Students Room to be Independent

We asked parents of rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors to think back to their student’s freshmen year and what they wish they had known.  Their advice is below.


Family Weekend was the biggest letdown for us, because our daughter had her own agenda and did not really want to do what we had planned, leaving us on our own a lot.  I think it really hit us that she was “gone” and our role as her parents had changed.  (This was not unique to Wake as I heard other parents had the same experience)  So have a back-up plan (especially in the mornings-they will sleep in) so you can adjust to her/his plans and do something else if necessary.  (Take heart, however; we visited again in February, had a lovely weekend and plenty of time with her)

I would recommend for freshmen parents to PLEASE have confidence, faith and respect in your freshman allowing him or her to explore and to grow into a confident, respectful, independent adult Deac college student preparing for a successful opportunity and to take on our challenging world without Mom or Dad, always being there!

PLEASE let your freshman experience and manage any hiccups of college life, unless you know your child truly needs your input!!! Be there for them, but don’t be overpowering!

Be prepared for phone calls conveying a disappointment of some kind, a poor grade, not getting a bid from the Greek organization they had their heart set on, roommate issues, etc…and show your support and ask them what their plan is going forward but don’t try to jump in and solve their problems for them. This will be one of the hardest things to do as a parent but they will get through it.

Be prepared to mostly listen to your child when they talk to you. I found that asking questions that enabled my daughter to look at all sides of a situation was more successful than just giving her advice.

It is difficult to “let” your child make mistakes and grow up through trial and error, but that is all part of letting go and letting them grow up….Hang in there!

Have high expectations for your child, but always keep in mind that it is THEIR life choices to make. Their opportunity to be successful or to fail. You cannot manage that while they are at school. Be supportive but don’t try to make their decisions for them. Trust in the job that you have already done. You raised a child that was able to get in to one of the top universities in the nation. Both you and they have accomplished much. Now it’s their turn to continue on that path.

There will be tough times, both academically and socially.  Be there for them and listen, but don’t give too must advice and don’t be too critical.  All they really want is for you to listen and validate their feelings.  There WILL be something that goes wrong.  Probably more than one thing.  They will get through it.  And once they realize they can get through it without you coming to rescue them, the stronger and more confident they will be the next time they face a tough problem.

Send small I love you texts, or have a great day texts because you can, your kids appreciate it more than you know.

Watch the web cam on the Quad just for fun, because its there and you can take in the beauty of what your kids see every day.

Know that they still love and need you, even though they are growing up. My kid leaves to go back and I still get emotional, but I know she is fine but even more…I know she is happy.


[Editorial note: The comments have been minimally edited and grouped together for coherence.  In come cases, comments were combined with others.  When we had parents responding with the same advice, we repeated it for emphasis.  In the event a parent offered advice that ran counter to what Wake Forest advises, it was not included.  These comments represent the views of the parent commentators, not the views of the Office of Family Engagement (formerly Parent Programs office) or Wake Forest. ]