Getting a college education means acquiring knowledge and gaining additional skills.
However, it’s also about exploring new ideas and opportunities in life. That additional freedom also means increased responsibility for the student. It can take a lot of self-discipline to go to class every day when so many other opportunities abound.
Coping with these new ideas and opportunities is not always easy.
For most students, college is neither harder nor easier than high school. It’s just different. The same is true for parents and guardians.
The hardest part is often “letting go.”
College is part of a student’s search for maturity and self-identity. Parents or guardians need to change their style of parenting with their college-age students. Although students still need love and support, the parental figures in their lives need to become less involved.
How to Ease The Transition
Recognize this is a time of ambivalence for all parents.
The excitement and joy about opportunities awaiting your child are mixed with the waves of nostalgia and a sense of loss. Talk with other parents or guardians who are going through the same thing.
Recognize your child’s conflicting emotions.
Your child, like you, is being pulled between past, present, and future…one day exclaiming “Leave me alone; I’m 18 year old. I’m independent” and the next complaining, “You’re never around when I need you.” Your child’s ups and downs are a sign of the ambivalence of this transitional time.
Don’t tell your child “These are the best years of your life.”
No one is happy all the time between the ages of 18 and 22, and when a student is homesick or overtired from studying all night, it’s not reassuring to have parents or guardians imply that this is as good as it gets!
Talk to your child about how you’ll keep in touch.
Do you want a planned time to talk or do you want to be more spontaneous? A cell phone can be a wonderful way to keep in touch, or it can be, as one student described, an “electronic leash.” Encourage your child to use it with discretion and not just to fill in the spaces. Email and texts are also wonderful ways to keep in touch. Just don’t count on a reply to every message.
Be a coach rather than trying to solve your child’s problems yourself.
You’re likely to hear more than your share of problems. College students usually call their parents for reassurance when things aren’t going well, and call their friends with the latest exciting news. When you get those late night phone calls, and you will, you can encourage your child to use the appropriate campus resources - to go to the Counseling Center or Career Center, to talk to an advisor, dean, a counselor, or tutor. Read resource information sent to you by the College so you can be an informed coach for your child.
Be an anchor.
Keep your child informed about changes at home. College students want their parents or guardians to accept all the changes they are making but want everything at home to stay the same. So it’s important to keep them informed about changes at home, whether it’s moving a young sibling into their room, or, on a more serious note, about illness in the family or the death of a pet. They need this from you in order to feel secure and maintain a sense of trust.