11/14/2013 05:17 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts for Parents of Pre-College and College Kids

Thanksgiving is a great time to think about all the things we have to be grateful for in our lives. We live in a land of abundance where most children have the opportunity to attend college and receive a solid education that will help them achieve their goals. In many parts of the United States, Thanksgiving has turned into a four to five day holiday full of religious observations, parades, eating, shopping and fun.

Families usually start to gather from around the country, and college freshmen are often returning home for the first time since classes began. Despite all of the hustle and bustle, parents need to find a few moments to sit down and have a conversation with their near-adult children to make sure everything is going well. Here are a few topics you might want to cover:

  • Parents of High School Juniors and Seniors: This can be a hectic time in your child's life as he or she prepares to go to college. Parents should take some time to check in with their children to see how they are handling all of the pressure. Ask them about the deadlines that may be coming up for applications, exams, and scholarships. Find out if there is something you can do to help without taking over the process. Have a talk about the financial end of college to let them know how much you plan to participate and how much you expect them to contribute. Check out financial aid websites together and start gathering the paperwork you will need to complete the FAFSA in January.
  • Parents of College Freshmen: Your child may feel as if he or she is returning home as a conquering hero or a dismal failure. It's up to you to take them aside and perform a reality check, but it is also a delicate balancing act. Children attend college to obtain life skills as well as academic knowledge. Part of the freshman year is an opportunity to build their self-confidence. If they are feeling overwhelmed try to suggest options that may be helpful, without trying to solve any problems for them. Gauge whether or not it sounds like they are being serious enough about their studies while still participating in college life. Don't be afraid to ask about money either. This may be the first time students have been responsible for their own money and you may need to provide some parental advice if they are making poor financial decisions.
  • Parents of College Seniors: This may be the last Thanksgiving your near-adult spends with you or it may signal an upcoming return to the roost. Either way, make your financial expectations clear. Let college seniors know how much they will be expected to contribute to repaying any student loans and how long you might be willing to let them stay at home to help them get on their own financial feet.

Most of these discussions will fall on the side of children growing up and parents learning to let go of them. If you see that your child is having difficulty with the financial end of the college application or college payment process it can be helpful to connect with HS counselors and colleges.