You've probably felt it throughout high school. Your relationship with your child has changed. They are growing up, becoming more independent, and making more and more decisions on their own. For your child, it is a natural progression. For you, it may not feel quite so natural. Likely you are trying to navigate your changing role as they grow and become adults, and they are figuring out how you fit into their lives as their relationship with you changes. During all of this change, your student is making one of the first really important decisions in their lives – which college to attend. This may leave you wondering: how do you help your child with this decision without him or her feeling like you are trying to influence their decision?
Trust us, they want your input.
Your student is just as worried about making the right college decision as you are. Your child wants to know what you think. They want to bounce ideas off of you. It may seem to you at times that the opposite is true, but rest assured, they want and need your help. What you need to do, is provide it on their terms.
Be a listener first. Don't jump right into problem solving.
Decision making is a process. Sometimes we just need to bounce ideas of one-another during this process. Your child will be much more open to your suggestions and advice if you first listen to what they have to say. Take some time to really understand what is going on in your child's head. Ask questions until you know why they are considering certain schools. Ask questions so that you completely understand where they are coming from. Do your best to refrain from providing advice until you are asked for it.
Don't make it about money.
If you have a college budget for your child, it can be easy to make the college choice about money. If he or she is considering a school that is outside of that budget, it can be tempting to say "we can't afford that!" Instead, our advice is to let your child know how much of a budget they have for school, and if the cost of attending exceeds that amount, then they will need to find another way to pay for the rest. This puts the ball in their court. If attending the more expensive school is important to them, or if they truly think it will give them a leg up in their career, then they may decide that it is worth it to pay a little more.
Remember that it is their decision.
Your child will be the one that will be attending that school for the next four years. It is their education and their future. It's easy to try to convince your child to do something that you think is best for them, but it is time for them to decide what is best. Your job as a parent is to listen and provide frank and helpful advice. Their job is to choose the college that is best for them. They need and want your advice and help, but they also want to be the one to choose.