College: It’s a rite of passage not only for your kids but also for you. When they leave, you will need to find new ways to be a supportive, loving, and involved parent. Here are some tips to make it the transition easier for you and your child.
1. Learn more convenient ways to keep in touch
You will be tempted to call or visit often. Make it easy for them to want to get in touch with you. Consider texting, e-mailing, or instant messaging your kid. They already use the technology to communicate with their friends, so it won’t be such a burden to get back to you the same way. If you insist on getting them on the phone, pick one day a week at a specified time that you will call them so they can be ready for you.
2. Give them their space
Your child is going to be very busy with their new role as college student: more challenging academics, more social opportunities, and inevitably more stress. During the first few weeks that they’re away, keep conversations quick and light-hearted.
3. Help them find their own way
Listen carefully to your child. If you sense that they’re homesick and want comfort, then step in and offer help. Let them know that you will always be there but also advise them to use campus services like academic and resident advisors and school counselors. You want your child to get involved in their new community and if they’re using you as a crutch they won’t be able to do that.
4. Send them care packages
Students love to pick up a gift from home at their mailbox. Think about what they’ll need at school: snack foods like microwave popcorn and granola bars, quarters for the laundry machine, coffee shop or restaurant gift cards. Include a personal touch with some photos of the family. If they’re far away, send the local goodies that your kid loves or the town newspaper.
5. Keep abreast of their academics
Make sure that you know what classes your kids are taking and ask them about it periodically. Communicate your interest but don’t pressure them to tell you about all their quizzes and assignments. If you let them know you’re excited about what they’re learning (not just what grades they’re getting), your kid will be happy to share with you.
6. If you visit, do it on their terms
Even if their college is only a few towns away, let your kid know well in advance before you show up on campus. It’s their turf now and you don’t want to be intrusive. Plan a dinner or a brunch and make sure that you’re not stepping on their social life with the timing. Many colleges plan parents’ weekends with activities with a mix of activities with your kids and for parents only.
7. Meet a few of their friends
When you visit, be sure to ask your kid to invite a few of their friends with them. They’ll probably be more than happy to get the free meal and this will give you an opportunity to become more involved in your kid’s life.
8. Don’t be judgmental
It wouldn’t hurt to have a frank, open conversation about drinking, partying, and how to balance college life before your student leaves home. Recognize that once they’re gone, it will be impossible for you to keep constant tabs on them. If you hear your child talking about drinking or otherwise irresponsible behavior, take stock of whether what they’re saying is serious or if it’s just normal college student activity. Trust that you’ve taught them well and encourage them to have fun in moderation.
9. Use your extra time wisely
If your child going to college leaves you with an empty nest, take time to enjoy the hobbies or activities that you’ve been putting off for their whole childhood. Plan special outings with your partner. If you have other kids at home, make a little more time to do things they like.
10. Talk with other parents
Create a support network among your friends who have college kids. Bounce your concerns off of them before you take them to your student. You’ll probably find that you have a lot in common with them as you enter this next phase of your child’s life.