It’s finally here. The Class of 2017 has graduated and many have headed off to college.
For many parents, the past few weeks have been filled with the fun and craziness of shopping for college, buying things for a dorm, moving in, and savoring every last moment with them before they head off into a foreign land of unknowns.
Their bedroom is now empty. Life as you know it has changed in a big way.
For many teens, transitioning from high school senior to college freshman is a big adjustment. And for parents, the transition is just as difficult, maybe even more difficult for you, than it is for them.
As a parent, you know that your college freshman is going to be faced with responsibilities and adjustments that they have never encountered before. Being on their own, missing home, missing old friends, making new friends, scheduling themselves, and learning how to juggle their newly found freedoms with their responsibilities, can be exciting yet overwhelming.
Most college freshman make the transition quite well, but some find it to be more difficult than they had imagined.
And for the parents, well, as you find yourself dropping them off and waving goodbye, you suddenly find yourself with an emptiness in the pit of your stomach like you haven’t felt since that first day you sent them to kindergarten.
You wonder constantly “Are they okay? Are they making friends? Are they homesick? Are people being nice to them? Are they making wise choices? What if they get mixed in with the wrong crowd? Did I do a good enough job of raising them?
You try to remind yourself to be thankful that you have raised a confident, well rounded adult. You are thankful that they are able to attend college and go out into the world. But you are going to miss them. After all, taking care of them has been your job for the past 18 years and now, suddenly, you find yourself without a job – it’s like being fired from a lifetime of the best job you’ve ever held. All of these emotions can be both liberating and terrifying all at the same time.
Here are some tips on how to get through the first year without driving them (or you) crazy:
BE A LISTENER AND AN ENCOURAGER -
As a parent, your teen is going to be on your mind every second of the day. As tempting as it may be for a parent to call and text them often, realize that your teen is probably super busy. They are meeting new people, making new friends and getting adjusted to their new surroundings. The best thing to do is give them a little space and let them text you first when things settle down for them a bit. Try not to call and text them every few minutes – remember when you were this age? Having your parents constantly call you would have driven you crazy. Give them some space. Encourage them to problem solve. They may not get along with a roommate (the RA’s are a great resource as are school counselors). They may become homesick – they will get through it! The best thing they can do is become as involved as possible at school. Encourage them to get involved. Remember, everyone else there is a college freshman too. It’s not always easy, but let them navigate the waters and encourage them to hang in there.
SKYPE and FACETIME - are your friends. You're lucky - your child is leaving for college at a time when technology and the ways to connect with them are amazing. Let your college teen know that you are available to them any time and that if they need you, Facetime and Skype are just a phone call away.
RELAX - Try not to worry too much. As a parent, it’s common to worry. But remember, you have done an amazing job and have raised a fantastic kid. You have laid a solid foundation for them. Chances are, they are going to be fine. There will be bumps and hurdles…good times and bad times. Keep the doors of communication open and let them know you are there for them no matter what.
AND ABOUT SCHOOL…encourage them but try not to be a helicopter parent. You have spent the past 12 years being a parent. Now it’s time to let them do it themselves. They are going to have successes and they are going to have failures. They know and understand that the choices they make will dictate the road ahead. If they put effort into something, they will most likely succeed. If they make bad choices, they will have trouble. It’s time to give them the freedom to choose. And yes, it’s hard.
MOMS AND DADS ARE DIFFERENT - Moms take this whole time in life much harder than Dads do. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Moms always worry. Let’s face it, being a mom is different than being a dad and it definitely comes with an extra set of hormones. For many moms, sending your kid off to college has its depressing moments. Dads may appear unaffected – happy-go-lucky and often don’t understand what you are going through. That brings us to our next tip.
SEEK OUT FRIENDS - Likely, you know someone who is going through this same thing or you know someone who has already gone through it. Meet up for lunch, dinner or for coffee. Reach out to people you know who have been there. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to a veteran mom who has “been there” – they can help confirm that your feelings are normal and can offer advice. Talking to others is always helpful.
KEEP BUSY – Now is a great time to take up a new hobby. Focus on something you like to do. Pursue your interests and talents that have been put on hold all these years. Start a mom’s group for moms who have college kids who are away. Volunteer, become involved in your community. Mentor, help someone else. Plan something special for the holidays. Try new recipes, try a new restaurant, redo a room in your home, go somewhere you’ve never been. Start a Pinterest Board - it’s amazing how lost you can get in creating boards for things that interest you. Make a care package for your freshman (check out Pinterest for some great ideas). Just do something to stay busy.