It’s often difficult for parents to accept their new role when a son or daughter goes off to college. After all, how will they manage without us? As you contemplate their upcoming new adventure though, remind yourself of these words of wisdom: “There are only two things we can give our children – roots and wings.”
So how can we go about doing that?
Send them off with an expression of trust and encouragement, not one of warning. “I’m so proud of you!” is far better than “Don’t drink too much” (even if you are worried about that). You want them to feel supported, empowered and inspired to do their best to make you even prouder.
They’ll remember your words when they’re going through a tough time so make them count.
Be clear about expectations
Well before they head off, have a conversation with them about what they’re hoping to gain from studying further and check that they’re happy within themselves with their chosen course of study. Ask them what kinds of grades they’re hoping to achieve, and what other activities they would like to get involved in.
Also discuss any financial arrangements so they’re clear on what you can and will pay for, and what they’re responsible for themselves.
Cut them some slack
Despite that conversation, you may as well resign yourself right now to the fact that the first year of tertiary education often involves less studying and more socialising. After all, freedom beckons and there are plenty of new experiences to explore. It’s all part of college life and that’s as it should be. On top of that, they’re getting used to a different way of learning. As a result, their grades may not be as high as you’d like.
Obviously if they’re in danger of failing, you may need to take action, but otherwise simply lowering your expectations of academic success, at least for the first year, will save you a lot of stress.
Save them space
If you immediately transform your child’s room into a study or gym, they may be surprisingly upset. Especially while they’re settling in and adjusting to this new phase of their life, it’s important that they feel there’s still a space at home they can return to if need be.
Let them know you’re thinking of them while on a family outing, for example, and keep them up to date on what’s happening at home. That way they’ll feel secure in knowing they’re still part of the family.
If they call you up with a problem, be extremely wary of jumping right in to help. Unless it’s truly a crisis, rather simply express support. It’s a very difficult line to walk but try to give them a chance to wrestle with the problem and/or encourage them to seek support from the resources available on campus. If they manage to sort it out themselves, they’ll feel empowered, extremely grown-up and more inspired to tackle challenges on their own next time.
The way they rely on you will probably change, but your child will always need you, even when they’re completely grown up. They’ll also, to some extent, always care what you think, even if they won’t admit it. So if you’re feeling left behind, remind yourself that they can only manage so well on their own because you’ve equipped them to do so. If they feel confident enough to go out and live their own lives, it means you’ve done your job perfectly.