Mother-Daughter Do’s and Don’ts for When She is Away at College


As my 17-year-old daughter heads to college, I feel a deep sense of longing for her to be a baby again. I’d have the time back so I could right the wrongs, re-live the precious moments, and have 12 extra years free from eye-rolls.

Since that’s not to be, I’m in full high school graduation stupor. The cake, banner, and gifts have been planned in stealth mode and I’ve already screwed up something family-related about the number of people who will be attending. Family drama. Yeah, I need some more of that.

My daughter and I already have expectations for how we will relate to each other when she is in college. (Twenety 20)

As I thought about my incredible daughter’s life and the things we’ve done together, I wondered what she does and does not want from me when she gets to college. Plus, I have my own do’s and don’ts. So here are the two lists – One from her and one from me.

Mother-Daughter do’s and don’ts

SIDEBAR: The conversation, via text but of course, to ask her if she’d be willing to do this for me only included, “DO leave me alone as much as possible” only one time. I was proud.

From mom to daughter

The Do’s:

  • DO ask as many questions as you possibly can. To professors and staff and in general. The number of questions you ask is directly related to how much education you get.
  • DO call your mother when you can. The phone will be glued to my forehead.
  • DO your absolute best no matter what you show up to do.
  • DO be the same glorious girl you’ve always been. Treat others with kindness. Be inclusive. Respect your elders.
  • DO keep speaking your mind. I admire your ability to just get it all out there.
  • DO have fun. While knowing your limits.
  • DO appreciate your friendships. They may be the best friends you’ll ever have.
  • DO buy your own razors. Ew.
  • DO rely on your instincts. If something feels squirrelly, walk (or run) away.
  • DO lean on your spirituality. Sometimes He’ll be the only one who is there for you.
  • DO embrace the messy parts of life. Losing your phone, being late for a class, and being locked out of your dorm room are all things that could happen. Don’t let it color an entire day.

The Don’ts:

  • DON’T lose important paperwork, including your student ID and driver’s license. You wanted to be an adult – Welcome.
  • DON’T forget your worth which isn’t connected to your actions. You’re always unique, special, and worthy of all good things.
  • DON’T pressure yourself over grades. College is pressure enough.
  • DON’T walk on campus alone at night. Lord knows you have enough girlfriends for one of them to go with you.
  • DON’T care about calories. If you need an entire bag of dark chocolate while you finish a paper, so be it.
  • DON’T turn in assignments late unless it’s an emergency. It’s rude, uncalled-for, and I raised you better.
  • DON’T be afraid to swim upstream when everyone else is swimming down. You’ve certainly made your own path up until now…Keep following your heart.
  • DON’T be a “nice girl.” Say what’s on your mind and speak up for those who can’t.
  • DON’T get too big for your britches. There will be lots of people who have more and lots who have less. Be grateful.
  • DON’T Tattoo. Your. Face. It needed to be said. – DON’T ever forget how very much I love you.

From daughter to mom. Verbatim…

The Do’s:

  • DO Ask how classes are. (So far, so good.)
  • DO Ask how my girlfriend is. (I can dig it.)
  • DO You can send letters if you would like. (Hey, I like.)
  • DO Ask what’s new, just an update on stuff. (This is going well.)

And then she says,

“I really don’t know more than four.” (And…starting to roll downhill.)

The Don’ts:

  • DON’T get upset when I can’t talk or I don’t respond because I’ll be busy. (Okay, I can roll with that. To a point.)
  • DON’T contact my professors. (Okay okay, a little blunt, but okay.)
  • DON’T absolutely pester me about grades because I know they are important. (And back down the hill.)
  • DON’T hover over me considering I’m an adult. (Full throttle down.)

A few final thoughts from the mom

Well, I’m mostly unscathed and it teaches this mother a lot. I needed these reminders that:
1. My daughter is fiercely independent. And I couldn’t be happier.

2. She may have a neurological problem since I’ve always said grades don’t matter as long as she’s done her best.

3. She has faith in the US Postal Service.

4. She’s concerned about the safety of others. Although her professors have probably met a Mama Bear before, they probably haven’t seen the Queen Bear.

5. She has full confidence in my hovering capabilities.

You may want to try creating some Do’s and Don’ts for your college-bound offspring. The process will definitely open your eyes and they’ll see how much you care about their foray into the world.

Just think, you’ll have a blueprint for how to act and react (instead of crying into your coffee as you clutch their Senior picture.)

Ask, when they’re in a good mood, if they’ll write this list for you. Just because. Or pull the card I’m experienced at showing – the trump card. If they ask why, just say, ”Because I’m your mother.”

So get the low-down on your kid. Just prepare for the impact when you read their list and then, follow through with what they’re asking. Listening is the parents’ super power. After all, you’re dealing with an adult now.

More Great Reading:

The Adulting 101 Syllabus: 20 Life Skills I’m Teaching My Teens



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