Seeing your first child off to college is one of the more significant transitions parents face. Advice abounds for parents on college adjustment, but as a parent who has been through this stage, I have some advice of my own to share. These tips will be most effective if you discuss them together as a family and agree on the decision.
1. Accept that You’ll Miss Them
If your child is going away to college and living away from home, this is a big transition. Some grieving of the change is normal. That may take the form of sadness or bad mood. Recognizing it can be one step in keeping it in check.
2. Make a Plan for Keeping in Touch
This agreement should be made well before leaving for college. Keep it reasonable but consistent. Maybe a text a day, phone call a week, and face-to-face visit (or even Facetime or Skype) once a month. They will come to rely on this as much or more than you.
3. Beware the Temptation to “Helicopter”
Let your student handle most of their problems themselves, they will be come more able and independent. You can offer suggestions, help them identify and process the challenge, and show your support. They will develop better skills if you let them make their own mistakes.
4. Identify Support Systems on Campus
Explore with your student and ask about resources they find on campus to support them. Resident Assistants (RAs), faculty advisors, counseling staff, and professors can all be great help to your child, even with minor issues, which is a good place to start. The sooner your child is aware of their potential, the better.
5. Recognize when the “honeymoon” is over
Typically, once the fun Freshmen Orientation week is over, freshmen experience a bit of a let-down, but a more significant time of doubt is about six weeks into the term. It is fairly normal for students to feel some disappointment and disillusionment after their first round of grades have come out. It’s an important time to encourage some problem solving and persistence.
My next series of tips will address setting expectations with your student.