Starting college or university is a coming of age experience for your child. It’s clear that they’re not a little kid anymore, but they’re not quite grown up yet. It’s a transitional phase during which they mature and hopefully become a responsible young adult.
If your teenager is soon to leave or has already left home for the first time, you may be feeling emotional. You’re probably worried about whether they can handle life on their own without your constant involvement. It’s perfectly normal to be worried! But also equally important to give your child some space so that they can learn how to be independent.
Our parenting tips can help you cope with this transition
As your child has grown, they have gained different types of independence. From learning to walk and talk, to learning to read and write, slowly but surely they have gained natural skills.
Adulthood is just another series of skills that they acquire. You need to accept that just as your child grew from a baby needing constant care into a physically active toddler, they will now mature from a teenager into a young adult.
1. Learn to step back without interfering
It’s tempting to want to solve all of your young adult’s problems for them, but if you do this they won’t develop the skills needed to be successful and independent. Remember that it is through mistakes that we learn, so let your almost grown up ‘baby’ make mistakes, within reason of course. It’s perfectly okay to step in in a very serious or life threatening situation.
2. Keep communication open but respect their privacy
Communication is the key to any healthy relationship, and it’s especially true of parents and teenagers or young adults. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything, include them in adult conversation and let them know that you value their opinion. At the same time, you should try not to moralise, and don’t pester them for information that they aren’t ready to share. This will only lead to secrecy and a breakdown of communication.
3. Teach them practical and useful life skills
Does your teenager know how to do their own laundry? Are you confident that they will be able to manage their finances? Can they manage their time without you reminding them about the things they need to do? Simple skills such as using a washing machine, basic budgeting and time management may be second nature to you but are probably foreign concepts to your child!
4. Trust that you’ve done a good job
It can be really difficult to let go and have faith in your child’s ability to look after themselves and make good choices. After all, you want only the best for them. But you also need to trust in yourself as a parent. Actions speak louder than words. Chances are that if you’ve been a good role model, your teenager will naturally learn from your example.
Our most important parenting tip of all? Remember that as much as you might be feeling anxious, this is an exciting time for your teenager! They have many wonderful and challenging times up ahead. If you are there to guide and support them – but not control – their experience will be all the richer.