It’s a big moment in your family’s life: The first time a child goes off to college, so excited for a new adventure and maybe a little nervous about being on their own for the first time.
It can also be stressful, trying to make sure everything is ready and that their dorm room is fully stocked with supplies and treats, getting all those books, and making sure classes are scheduled properly.
Thankfully, it’s possible to make this an enjoyable, memorable experience for everyone, with less stress and nervousness than expected.
Here are a few tips on preparing everyone for the big change as a child goes off to college.
Loosen the grip.
As a parent, you’ve done your best to raise your child to prepare for this new level of independence. Before they go off to school, have one more conversation about your expectations for their grades and behavior — talk honestly about drinking and drug use they might be exposed to and let them know they can always call you if they need advice. Then, trust them to do the right thing. The healthier and stronger your relationship, the better your child can navigate the first steps of adulthood. The more you try to keep them under a watchful, loving eye, the more they might feel like you don’t trust them to do the right thing, or that they can’t talk honestly with you if they make a mistake. College is a learning experience in more ways than just classrooms!
Feel your feelings.
The days or weeks after seeing a child off to school can be ones of heightened emotions. Many parents often feel a sense of loss now that their child is grown up; the fear is that they no longer need you in their lives anymore. That’s not true! The relationship is changing, but it’s still very important, and they’ll still need to lean on you occasionally. With that in mind, it’s perfectly normal to shed a few tears while adjusting to your quieter home. But resist letting this sadness overwhelm you and run your life.
Talk about social media boundaries.
The urge might be there and strong, to try and fill in the gaps in what your child tells you about their classes and what they’re doing at school by checking out their social media profiles. Resist the urge to snoop! Talk with your child before they leave about what’s healthy and reasonable regarding how much you think they should share with you. Listen closely to what they think they should share with you, then meet in the middle. Understand, too, that things will change as the semester goes on. Ask your child whether they’d mind if you ‘followed’ their accounts — and understand that your insistence on being allowed to do so might prompt them to create new ones you don’t know about.
Talk about talking.
Aside from social media peeks, establish how much communication you think is needed, then listen to your child’s thoughts. Meet in the middle: Maybe daily phone calls are too much as they adjust to their new life and freedom. Maybe weekly emails aren’t enough. A good compromise might be a weekly phone call with a check-in text every day or two. You want to make sure they’re doing okay, but you don’t want to worry the moment they don’t call when they said they would. It will take some adjusting on both of your parts!
Open your heart.
This is a day filled with emotions on all sides. Before you load up the vehicle and make that drive, say what’s in your heart. Tell your child how proud you are of them and how excited you are for them as they start this new chapter. Give lots of hugs, or whatever you and your child are comfortable with regarding affection, and make it clear that you’re still here to support them.
Do something for you.
The day you drop your child off at college might feel big and momentous — for them. It’s a big day for you, too! Whether you have other children still at home or are now an empty nester, do something special either on the way home from college or later that day. Get together with a friend for dinner, or take your children still at home out for a treat. You’ve helped your child earn their success and ability to attend college; you deserve to celebrate this occasion, too!
Things will change as the semesters pass. Your student will fall into a routine with classes and studying, friends, and maybe a job, and time will need to flex and adjust. Be reasonable and supportive — you might find yourself busier with activities you’ve long wanted to pick up, too! Communication and trust are key to building a healthy relationship with your young adult. You’ve done your best; now let them do theirs!
If this new phase of life makes you consider making a professional change or maybe returning to work, AMEA Healthcare is ready to help! We work with healthcare partners of all kinds and sizes and would be happy to help you find a position that works for your new life. Give us a call today!