Parenthood has two big transitions, when our children arrive and when they leave. There will be other milestones. But for many, the moment on the horizon is kids going to college. Watching your child go from diapers to a grown person taking their first steps into adulthood can fill you with a multitude of emotions. For some parents there can be an uncertainty for how to cope and prepare with this big transition. We hope that this blog can help with that uncertainty and instill 5 helpful tips when you have a child going away to college.
We’re sure you’ve heard of the “empty nest syndrome”. For those parents whose last child goes of to college or for the parents whose only child goes off to college we know that this can be an especially bittersweet experience. One part of you is excited that your child is starting this new chapter in their lives and the other part of you is plagued with feeling of having to “let go” of your baby as they head into adulthood. So how do you adjust? A helpful tip for empty nesters is to refocus yourself to other aspects of your life. While your child is away at college, it is ok to take off your “parent” hat as you will be giving your child space and won’t need to parent as much. Take this time to focus on your spouse or significant other or other relationships in your life and reconnect. Focus on yourself as well and find things that you enjoy doing or do things that maybe you haven’t had a chance to do and set aside time for yourself to do these things.
It’s ok if you are hit with sadness and even pain at seeing your child off to college. Know that you are human and show yourself compassion. Acknowledge your feelings and try to be open and honest with how you are feeling. If you are having a hard time adjusting to this period, it can be helpful to find people to talk to and build a support system for yourself. This can be family, friends, support groups for parents of college students, and also therapists.
With your child transitioning to college also comes the transition in the way you and your child communicate. You may find that your child does not have as much time as they used to to talk and share things with you as their focus is going to class, participating in extracurricular activities, and studying. To help yourself and your child adjust to the big changes of college, take time to establish simple ways to connect regularly. This can include a set time or day that your child calls, emails, or texts you to touch base with you and keep that open line of communication and for you to know that your child is doing fine while away at college.
This tip can sometimes be hard for parents, but it’s important for both the parent and child. When your child leaves from home to go off to school, you may find yourself expressing constant concern for your child which may in turn lead to being overbearing. This may cause some frustration and strain on the parent/child relationship as the child may feel like they are being smothered or as if their parents don’t feel they are capable of handling being off on their own. It’s important to allow your child space to adjust to being away. Remember that while you allow for this space you can still make sure that he or she knows you are always there when they need you.
We all know that college is a great expense. Often we see that kids going away to college, don’t have much experience with managing money. It can be helpful that as the date that you move your child in to their dorm on college, work with them to understand how to budget their funds. This can include working with your child to develop a budget plan that works for everyone. If you allow your child to have a credit card while in college, make sure he or she understands the purpose of the card whether it be for the sole use of emergencies, how to use it in relation to their budget, and understanding over-charging and late or missed payments can cause severe damage to you or your child’s credit rating. Ensuring that your child is equipped with basic life skills including budgeting can be very beneficial as they enter this stage in life.
Having a child go way for college can be stressful but also a rewarding experience as a parent. We hope that this blog helps you cope with all the emotions you experience with this big transition. The most important thing to remember for parents as you cope with this change is that no matter what emotions you are experiencing or struggling with, make sure that you take care of yourself. Plan a fun activity for yourself the day after you drop your child off. This will be a much needed distraction from the home that is now a little more quiet. If you are a parent of college student we’d like to hear from you! Contact us here with your successes, failures, and anything you’ve learned as a parent of a college student.