College marks a new milestone in your child’s life, a new journey that they’ll be embarking on mostly on their own. It can be a tricky change to your relationship, and both parents and college students alike can struggle at first with how this new setup should look between you. But countless students have undergone the change before, with most saying that the relationship with their parents changes for the better.
So how can you navigate these rough waters and say goodbye to your suddenly independent child, without losing complete contact and going overboard?
Have a Plan for Drop-off Day
One of the hardest moments in the college journey will be move-in day, the day that you take your child to their dorm and help them unpack and set up. Here’s the key to this day: don’t linger. This is your child’s chance to make a first impression on their roommate, to get to know other students on the same floor, and to chat about the freshmen events that the school has planned for that evening.
The best thing for you to do is to have a plan for later that day that you don’t want to miss. For example, you could make a reservation at a nice restaurant with just you and your partner. You could plan to attend a sports game or family event. Just make sure you have a reason to leave, a plan you can’t change and that you don’t want to change. Leaving will be hard, but keeping yourself occupied afterward will help.
Consider Setting a Weekly Call
You know your highschooler barely answers your calls and texts on a good day…so what will college look like? Your student will probably be having a lot of fun and be very busy those first few weeks as they go through orientation and meet their new classmates. Try not to text them every hour on the hour and expect an update.
It’s okay to write them, even when they don’t write you back, but try to limit your texts to once a day. Ask how things are going, but don’t ask for too many details, as they probably won’t have the time to text you a book about everything going on. And things are probably changing rapidly for them as they meet new people and settle into a friend group, so they might not have many details to share yet.
Before leaving for college, consider agreeing with your teen about a weekly call time, so that you know you’ll get their undivided attention at least once a week. Sunday afternoons are a great time for such a call, and your student might even begin to look forward to it every week.
That said, your student might be homesick and text you often. Be supportive and text back, but encourage them to get out to campus events and get to know their classmates. Some students need a little push at the beginning, and having someone encouraging on the other end of the phone is always helpful. Just don’t ask them about being homesick or encourage them to come home every weekend. You want them to thrive on their own.
There Will Be Breaks
We know, Fall Break seems like a million years away. But encourage your student to stay on campus until then. This sets them up to be around for campus events and study groups, so they can establish some connections with their roommate or classmates. Your home is still their home, and they’ll be seeing you for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, and all summer. That also means you need to keep their room clear for them to move back in at the end of each school year!
If your student decides to go on a school trip during breaks, encourage them to do so. It will be hard for you to not have that time with them, but they can always come home for a weekend if this is the case. And you can always go to visit them for a day or two (just not too often!).
Trust and Let Go
You know your child better than anyone. But now is their time to be an adult and take responsibility for their own schedule, studying, choice of friends, and more. Offer encouragement and check in on them, but remember that sometimes the “sink or swim” method is the best way for children to learn.
You raised your child with a lot of hard work and determination to see them be the person you knew they could be. Now is the time to step back and see what they do with it. This is a difficult transition for both parents and college students alike, but trust that your child is ready and will do fantastic on their own.
Parents and College Students: Surviving College Together
Having trouble navigating this college thing, what with scholarships, financial aid, student loans, application letters, courses to choose, and more? That’s where a college and career advisor can help. Check out My Advisor Says today to see if we can help your student on their college journey.