Can you believe it’s here? For 18 years you’ve planned, taught, corrected and prepared your child with the nebulous goal of going to ‘college’ in mind. Now, after all those years, college isn’t so nebulous anymore. It’s right around the corner, ready to welcome your son or daughter with open arms- full of independence- whether you’re ready or not.
Parents handle the ‘letting go’ process differently but all agree it’s difficult. It is a process loaded down with trust. Trusting that you have prepared your child to manage their own lives without the guidance of an immediate, managerial safety system. Now is the time you may find your thoughts filled with the ‘shoulds’. “I should have made her do her laundry more”, “I should have prepared him to manage his money better”. It can turn into a frantic race to the finish line of ‘responsible adult’. It’s a race no one can win. Once the ‘shoulds’ finally quiet down the ‘what if’s’ come knocking. “What if they forget to do their homework?” “What if they party and drink too much?” And on and on.
Many of these anxieties can be calmed with discussions between parents and their child. These discussions can help your child prepare for the unavoidable situations that accompany college life. And the more prepared your child, the more you can trust that your child will make safe, responsible decisions.
- Try to come up with an agreement regarding parent/child contact. Some disagreements and worries come from miss-communicated expectations. Your child may think a monthly text is enough while you’re waiting for the phone to ring on a nightly basis. Find a method and frequency you all can comfortable live with.
- Make sure your child knows exactly how any spending money will be handled. No one likes surprise bills, especially after tuition payments. Let your child know in advance what you’re willing to provide and ask if they would like budgeting ideas. They may come to you after a few months and ask for some budgeting advice if they are having trouble getting money to last. Be open if they do.
- If you haven’t already, it’s time to have a ‘safe choices’ conversation. A known part of college is socializing and it is vitally important to stress safety. Drinking, drugs and sex are situations your child likely will face and you want them making informed choices. It can be an awkward conversation to have, but it could be a life saving one.
- Finally, let you child know that you’ll always be watching out for them. Just because they no longer live in your home full time- they are still your child. Let them know if they struggling with the load of college coursework, leaving home for the first time, or simply the transition you are there to support them. Most colleges and universities have mental health care refer your child to use it if you feel they are struggling.
It is an exciting time for your family. It is bittersweet to see your children take their first tentative steps into adulthood. Keep the lines of communication open, marvel at the adult they are growing into, and always let them know you will be there if they stumble; to help them pick themselves up and dust themselves off.