Healthy Families

Parenting a College Student: Walking a Fine Line

Parenting a College Student: Walking a Fine Line

 

High school graduation and parties are in the past, the applications are done, deposits, dorm shopping, and every detail possible to prepare your child to succeed at college is complete.  After the tears have been shed at drop-off, what's the next step?  It is a very difficult transition to go from knowing where your child is 24 hours a day, to not knowing where they are, who they are with, or what they are doing.  We'd all like to think that we have prepared our child for every obstacle or situation, but that is impossible.  Our job as parents is never complete, but changes throughout the college years.  We still need to encourage and support our children but now is the time to let your child grow, or "spread their wings." It is important to keep in touch but also important to refrain from texting every hour.  Their world is completely changed.  Our lives are different because they are not living at home but, unlike them, our routines and surroundings are consistent.  They will contact you with wonderful news and excitement and disappointment and homesickness.  It is our job to help them balance these emotions and encourage the small steps of independence.  We must remember not to get caught up in their emotions and react immediately when we get one of those panicked or upsetting phone calls.  Listen attentively, but don't make judgments or accusations.  Let them use you as a sounding board.  Remember to reference all of the support systems available at the college that were explained at orientation and make sure you encourage them to utilize those resources.  It's likely that a few hours after that troubling call you may still be fretting at home while your child is watching a movie contentedly in a new friend's room, completely over their emotional upheaval that you are currently stressing about. 

Talk to your child before you drop them off at college and try to set up boundaries about communication.  Let them know that you want to hear from them about how things are going and maybe talk about a tentative schedule about how often you will call or text.  But, that may change when they go away and they may need to contact you more often in the beginning.  Or, they'll be so busy that they don't keep in touch with you frequently.  That's okay too.  That might be as difficult as them calling all the time, but resist the urge to hover.  Keep a schedule of their classes so that you know when they are in class and when they have down time.  Let them make the initial contact.  If you haven't heard from them in a while, a simple text or voice message saying that you love them or are thinking about them is a nice gesture.  Every child is different and requires different levels of contact. 

It is a stressful time for everyone.  Take everything in stride.  You will all get through this and remember, they will be back and eating you out of house and home and up all night and sleeping all day before you know it!