Surviving your child's first year of college
Your child may be worried about fitting in and the "freshman 15" in the first year of college, but you might have concerns about temptations, discipline and more. Review these survival tips to cope with the transition.
It seems like yesterday that your child started kindergarten. Now they're at college where decision-making is their own… where you're not around to supervise anything.
College is a rite of passage and it's normal for a parent to be both thrilled and nervous for their child's new endeavor. Marie Carr, author of Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent's Operational Manual, suggests some action steps to get your child off on the right foot, and give yourself some peace of mind.
"The top things for parents to do are more logistical than emotional," Carr says:
- Establish a budget with your child. But expect that they may not be able to manage the budget and that you'll need to send more money.
- Review your homeowner's insurance policy. Verify coverage of your child's possessions – things can easily be stolen or lost at college.
- Review health insurance coverage. Determine whether your policy needs updating now that your child is no longer living at home. Inquire with your provider to see if the college's health insurance is something you should opt out of; it could be a savings of over $1,000.
- Review car insurance. If the student doesn't take a car to school, money can be saved as the "high risk" driver is away for eight months. If the student is taking a car to school, the insurance company needs to know the new location.
- Keep tabs on funds. Make sure the student checks their electronic student account for monthly charges or gives you access to it. Failure to pay charges such as athletic tickets or lab fees could result in late charges, interest or inability to register for future classes.
According to John Baker, a leadership expert and author, one of the best methods to deal with empty-nest syndrome is to "re-label" yourself. "You've been consumed with being a 'parent.' Now you can re-connect as a 'spouse,' re-engage as a 'friend,' reinvigorate your career as a 'professional.'"
More ways to cope when your child goes to college>>
Stay in Touch – Sometimes
Moving from home to college may be exciting for your child, but it isn't always easy. The change can be doubly hard for parents, but it's important to make the transition easier for all involved.
Think you're going to talk to your child every day? Think again. Once that homesickness goes away, your frosh will be too busy to talk. That cell phone will be attached to their hip, but they'll be screening. "Prearrange a plan of communication – such as calling every Sunday evening – and stick to it," says Carr. "Don't expect to hear from your child and don't try calling every day."
But that cell phone will come in handy for parents who are satisfied with quick, reassuring interactions with their child. "Text messages such as 'did u get pkg' will always get a response," Carr explains.
And while your child will be asserting their independence at their own pace – whether full-force or in baby steps – they will call you occasionally to manage their fears. "Don't overreact to the upsetting phone calls," says Carr. Put yourself in your child's place and figure out how you can best help them from a distance as they struggle with grades, relationships, or otherwise.
From the Heart
Your college student will adore receiving care packages, and you'll get in a good dose of parenting by compiling these items. Carr recommends sending care packages with the tastes, smells, and reminders of home about once a month, if possible. "Plan to individually wrap the goodies as many hands will be diving in!" When you send something through snail mail, let your student know as they may not check their mailbox regularly.
Include a roll of quarters for the washers & dryers in your next care package. It's the next best thing to doing their laundry for them and you don't have to fold!
Weekly notes or brief letters are another nice way to remind your freshman that they're on your mind without making them feel like you're checking up on them all the time.