Content by SpringfieldMoms.org
College freshmen often find themselves faced with surprises and unexpected discoveries. As they search for identify they may be caught off-guard by the newness of the adventure. Their academic, social, personal and even financial skills will be put to the real test.
Parents not ready to let go. It's not just college freshmen who struggle, so will you as a parent. After years of being a responsible, caring and in-control parent, having a child away at college can be frightening, rewarding and nerve-racking- sometimes all in the same week. Our moods fluctuate for a while because our generation of college parents is used to being in touch with our kids on the cell phone several times a day. Our kids have made many decisions, but often with our input. It's hard to give it up! Their moving out to live on campus can leave those of us remaining behind feeling:
- Empty – like their vacant rooms.
- Unprepared – and uncomfortable with our changing roles.
- Under-utilized – no longer fixing meals, doing laundry, handing out money for various expenses. (Okay-that part doesn't change much. They just get it in bigger chunks.)
- Left out and/or lonely – don't know all their friends or daily details of their lives.
- No longer in control – of their decisions with or without our advice.
- Worried – about the student adjusting to college academics, tight family finances and the college social scene with its pressures to experiment with sex, drugs, drinking games and their overall health and wellness. Emotions may be high during this stage of life, but keep in mind you are still a parent; your role is just different. The relationship to your child switches from disciplining and directing to advising and befriending.
Teen may not be ready to let go either. Don't be shocked if your teen feels overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated with his or her new college life. Sometimes they balk and want to give up too soon. If this happens, nudge them gently and remind them that uncertainty is part of any new experience.
Communicating from a distance. With cheaper long distance charges, nationwide cell phone plans, e-mail, instant messaging and lower airfares, it is easier than ever to stay in touch once children leave home. Consider these suggestions:
- Keep in touch with your child, but don't do so excessively. Your offspring may need your support, but will not want to be swamped.
- Ration your calls to no more than two a week. Try emailing or text messaging instead of phoning.
- Write regularly. College students love mail. Frequent short notes are much better than occasional long letters.
- Provide guidance if your teen seeks help, but don't step in and do everything for them.
- Compliment your teen when they have solved a problem. It boosts their self-confidence. They'll also be more likely to think of you as a resource later on.
- Send care packages. Include their favorite snacks, gum, instant drink mixes, pudding cups and mints. Also include small items such as post-it notes, highlighter pens and even a mystery toy.
- Talk with other parents who have sent a child off to college. Find out what did and didn't work for them.
Submitted by Diane Ryals who is a family life educator for University of Illinois Extension. This article was reprinted with permission from the 2008 Fall edition of Working Families Newsletter.