Question: Our only child went to a nearby college this year on a scholarship, but her grades were very bad her first semester. She’s had a long-time boyfriend, who is the same age but is not in school. We think her grades are suffering because her boyfriend is always at her dorm, so when she’s out of class, she’s spending time with him instead of doing homework and balancing academic with social time.
What can we do, if anything, at this point to help her understand that school needs to come first and she needs to find a balance between social/relationship time and study time?
Answer: One of the topics discussed frequently in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books is showing your child the value of an education. Your daughter is an adult now, so your role as a parent must shift to accommodate this phase of her life. Here are some suggestions discussed in our books:
Discuss the career options she will have with only a high school degree (see Through High School and Beyond), and what the corresponding salary would be. Be transparent with your daughter about your own household expenses and help her create a budget with the salary you discussed. Being open to the reality of living costs can be very eye opening for a young adult.
With your daughter, review the requirements to keep her scholarship. When grades are poor, it will be difficult—if even possible—to get another scholarship later. Explain to your daughter that the longer she waits to finish college, the more difficult it will be to get financial assistance. She may struggle to pay for college out of her own pocket.
Encourage a Supportive Relationship
Reach out to the boyfriend and help him understand you want to be on the same team for the success of your daughter. Explain that you are not against their relationship, but rather you just want your daughter to earn a college degree so that she can be successful later in life. If the boyfriend truly cares about her, then he should be equally supportive of her academic success.
Encourage him to enroll in that school so they can help each other be successful. You can even help your daughter budget her time with classes, study time, and social time. Teaching her that there is room to manage academics and a social life will continue to be a useful skill later in life.
Identify a Positive Environment
Encourage your daughter to make friends at her school. Having friends with the same goals for finishing college will influence her in a positive way. Find out what social activities are at the dorms or encourage her to enroll in a club.
As a parent, your role is to teach your daughter to value obtaining a college degree, and then you must trust that you have provided her the life skills necessary to make the best decision and live a productive and responsible life.