It’s happening – You’ve done your best to equip your teen with the necessary skills to not only survive but also thrive after high school, and now the moment has finally arrived when your eighteen-year-old is off to college. It may be a moment you’ve been dreading – your child leaving home. Worse, if your teen is an only child or the youngest, you also have to deal with that empty nest syndrome. Neither you nor your college freshman knows exactly how well this transition from home to college is going to go, so here are six pieces of helpful advice for you as a parent.
- Do Your Best to Let Go
College is but one more step that your teen is taking in their life, and they should be allowed to make their own decisions as much as possible. It’s somewhat of a balancing act – you want to provide enough direction, so your college student doesn’t feel they’ve been cast adrift in a boat without a rudder, while you also want to steer them toward making intelligent choices on their own.
- Let Your Teen Make Mistakes
Your college student will make mistakes. They may need to fall on their face and learn from what went wrong and get back up. This may sound harsh, but it’s the best way to learn valuable life lessons. Your challenge is to be supportive yet resist the temptation to turn into a helicopter parent hovering over every decision in an attempt to protect your teen from risk or failure.
- Don’t Fight Changes in Your Teen
First-year college life can be an exciting time for your freshman to discover deeper meaning and purpose. Be excited for your teen instead of worrying over how they may be changing. Freshman year of college is a time when your student may begin to question the interests, beliefs, and values they’ve brought with them from home and begin to change. This is a necessary and natural process of growing up.
- Expect a Possible Change in Career Interest
Don’t be alarmed if your college freshman expresses interest in a different career path from the one you thought was already set. It’s normal for college students to develop new interests and change their major. Many colleges acknowledge this by not requiring students to declare a major until their junior year. Of course, encourage your teen to discuss their choices with you, but in the end, it’s best to allow them to navigate their career choices on their own.
- Accept More Limited Contact with Your Teen
You may find your teen is only providing you snippets of information, where once you received whole chapters. To overcome this, try defining expectations for how you will stay in touch with your student. For instance, establish a regular time to talk by phone – this will alleviate worries when you haven’t heard from your teen in a while. A care package every now and then doesn’t hurt either.
- Anticipate a Different Relationship
The most challenging time for you and your new college student may be the summer after the freshman year when your teen comes home and you are struck by how they’ve changed. Your teen has been gone for a year, has matured, and now has a sense of belonging to a new community. If your freshman is at a college nearby, don’t be upset if they don’t come home every weekend. Your student needs the time to make friends, explore what the college offers and fully experience campus living.
Finally – Expect to Still Be Needed
While your student needs independence during their college journey, there will also be times when they need your help, advice, and support. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with campus resources so that you can help direct your teen to the appropriate place if concerns arise. However, if your teenager or young adult is experiencing problems that you can’t cope with, you may need the help of a counselor who is trained to deal with college students. If you are in this situation, give Doorways a call. We want your student to enjoy their college life, and an initial consultation with us won’t cost you any extra tuition fees.