Getting to know your student's friends is an important way to connect. Peers have great influence on many college students—and your student is likely no exception.

The process can be easier than it may seem at first. The following suggestions can help bridge the gap between you, your student, and their friends:

Just ask: Your student is probably excited about their new friends. Remember names and the next time you two talk on the phone, ask how those friends are doing.

Connect to classes: Has your student chosen a major? If so, ask if they've met anyone interesting in class. Even if they haven't, this might given them a chance to vent about the people they've met—which opens the gate for your student to tell you about their friends.

Visit: If the school is close enough where a drive to take your student out to dinner is a feasible option, do so, and ask them to invite their roommate or a friend. This way, you get to spend time with your student and talk to their friends at the same time. Your student will appreciate the offer you extended to their new friends, and their friends will love you for buying them dinner.

Extend invitations. Let your student know that you'd be glad to host a friend or two at your house during winter or spring break.

What not to do

When it comes to meeting friends, there are certain things not to do. Avoid the following:

Badgering your student for information:If your student doesn't want to tell you, they're not going to—and excessive questioning will most likely clam them up in the future, too.

Making your student suspect you don't trust them: Let your student know you are excited to meet their new friends because you're interested in who's a part of their life.

Don't judge on appearances alone. Just because your student's new friend has a ring in their lip or doesn't dress like your idea of a successful individual doesn't mean they aren't good people and great influences. Your idea of an acceptable friend may be based on stereotypes—so check yourself before you say anything that might cause hurt feelings.

Don't try too hard

In an effort to get to know their student's friends, some parents go overboard and get too involved. Be careful to keep your distance while also showing interest. It's important that student have friendships oftheir own that they can share with you, on their terms.

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