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Message to Parents

What You Can Do to Help Your Children Succeed in College or University

© 1998 Dr. Marna Zinatelli, Psychologist

Is it possible for parents to have constructive conversations with their children about school? Most parents would agree that it’s often difficult if not impossible. Most would also agree that things are not getting better. As tuition costs increase and the notion of a “secure” career choice becomes more and more out of date, parents try harder and have less success helping their children cope with the new challenges that college or university education presents.

The good news is that there are things that parents can do to help. There is a growing body of information that deals with what helps people manage intellectually challenging tasks, cope with change, manage time, organize themselves, motivate themselves, manage stress and learn effectively. The following tips may help you feel a little less confused and frustrated in your efforts to support your children.

Dos and Don’ts for Helping Your Children Succeed in College or University


  • express confidence in their abilities
  • respect their privacy
  • give positive feedback when they study
  • listen carefully to their concerns
  • celebrate large and small successes
  • show an interest in their goals
  • let them cope with disappointments
  • help create a good study location
  • ask how you can help
  • encourage them to access resources

  • foster self-doubt and worry
  • pressure them for information
  • say “you should be studying now”
  • cut them off and interrupt
  • focus only on long-term outcomes
  • minimize what’s important to them
  • say “I told you so”
  • expect them to study anywhere
  • provide help they may not want
  • ignore warning signs


Dr. Marna Zinatelli is a psychologist practicing in Ottawa, Canada. You are invited to visit her web page at