You can’t believe the moment is here: your baby is about to start college. How did the time go by so quickly? Before your child leaves for school, you still have some one-on-one time with him. Make the most of this time before the nest is empty by giving your child the information and support he needs to confidently spread his wings in college.

Here are five important parent-child discussions to have with your high school grad before he or she leaves for college.

  1. Have an honest talk about drugs and alcohol. As I wrote about recently, I support the way one mom I interviewed in the past reminded her son about the perils of using drugs and alcohol, and reiterated the legal ramifications. Then she told him that if he were to use alcohol or drugs, to call her, anytime, and she would respond, no questions asked. It is important that your child know the potential pitfalls of drugs and alcohol, but also that he knows you will always be a safe place he can turn to and trust in times of trouble.
  2. Talk openly about sex and respect. Whether you have a son or daughter, it is important to have frank discussions about sex in college. Remind them about their own safety, but also to watch out for their friends when they are out together at night. And, discuss how it is important to treat others they are dating with great respect.
  3. Review the family rules regarding college and the potential consequences. Do you have certain academic and attendance expectations for your child? If so, clearly outline those expectations with your child before he leaves for college, along with the potential consequences should he fall short of those expectations. Remind him that often the first year of school is the hardest year, and if he creates a regular study schedule that he can stick to, then he won’t find himself having to pull all-nighters, cramming for tests at the last-minute. A regular study schedule will also allow him to do more of the social and extracurricular activities he wants to do in college.
  4. Talk about smart money matters. Arm your grad with information and resources to help him handle financial matters responsibly while he’s away. This includes going over the pitfalls of credit cards, keeping financial information safe online and while he’s out and about and budgeting.
  5. Remind him that his family will always be his home team. Make sure your grad knows that no matter what, you will always be there for him. You can never tell your child “I love you” too much, and during this time of transition, he needs to hear it often. Remind him that you will always be there to answer any questions, to support and encourage him and most of all, to provide unconditional love. That security can provide endless comfort and give him confidence no matter how far away he may be.

Some of these discussions may be more difficult for you and your high school grad than others, but if you use my Empathic Process, it will help ensure you are each active participants in the conversation, with accountability. The important thing at this point in both of your lives is to keep the lines of communication open. Continue talking with your child; the more he feels he can count on you to be there while he’s away, the more likely he might be to continue making smarter decisions on his own.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.