Conversations You Need to Have With Your Daughter Before College

Daughter “Train a child up in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Your baby girl is preparing to head out into the world. College awaits her, but so do any number of threats and dangers from which you will no longer be able to protect her. Though she’s becoming a woman and gaining her independence, your job is far from complete.

No matter how sweet, demure, chaste or sober your daughter has been throughout her adolescence, college presents new pressures, experiences, challenges and a host of temptations. As parents, it is not safe to assume that your youth group kid will remain as such once she steps onto her university campus. Though perhaps your daughter has elected to attend a Christian or religiously affiliated college or university, do not be deceived; alcohol and drugs are still present and available, and sex still happens. No matter where you are sending your daughter (unless it’s to a convent) she will be confronted with the same temptations and pressures that pervade secular college life. She need not be afraid and neither should you, but wisdom and awareness are key.

Your dream is for this period in your daughter’s life to be a time of blessings and development—not only in textbook education, but also in vocation, character and faith. And by God’s grace it will be. Many college kids rise above the pressure and stay out of the traps, many see their faith and their character develop profoundly during these years. But many don’t.

While you cannot protect your child from every danger that will confront her once she leaves the house, and you cannot ensure that she will always make good choices, you have an important part to play in sending her off on the right foot. By communicating your hopes and expectations to her, and by discussing some of the very real issues that will confront her once she leaves home and begins life on her own, you keep her from being blind-sided by peer pressure and the “college experience” mentality.

Having these conversations before college can help to ensure that your kids make good choices. Statistically, kids whose parents communicate their expectations to them prior to their first semester of college are less likely to engage in dangerous and illegal activities such as underage drinking, binge drinking, drug use and sexual misconduct.

Begin by addressing the myth of the “college experience.” She will see her peers pursue this “experience” with drinking, experimental drug use, casual sex, and a general disregard for academic priorities. And a semester or two later those same peers, having given it all to the “college experience” will find themselves being kicked out of college. The purpose of college is education and development. Social development is included in that but relationships and social development happen outside of the house party through athletics, academics, social activism, volunteering, Christian groups and in other generally useful and edifying ways. It’s possible to have a vibrant college life and to develop as an adult without the beer bong. You can’t prevent college drinking entirely, but you can encourage moderation, safety and proper priorities.

Help your daughter to understand that not all of her new male “friends” are friends. The first weeks of college are filled with throw-together groups—no one has had time to establish authentic relationships, but everyone is desperate for social activity and a sense of belonging. Many young women, naively believing they can trust their male classmates, will overdrink and cede responsibility. Date rape and other forms of sexual assault are all too frequently the result. While rape is never the woman’s fault, your daughter needs to see that she must take care in this sea of new young men, especially if alcohol is involved.

Open her eyes to the potential of this time. College in the United States is designed for women to succeed. For your daughter, this is her oyster—a time to find out who she is and what her purpose will be in the world. It is an opportunity to serve, to develop her mind, her personality and her faith. While many girls pine after a boyfriend or even a fiancée, this is an important time for her to work on herself—she will never have so much support in doing that as she does in this season of her life.

College kids, despite their legal age, are yet children, and though they may seem resistant to listen to parental guidance, they need your input. College is a time of playing adult dress-up. Though many will be out of the house and perhaps several states away, your job isn’t done. Start the conversation early and keep it going.