For parents of college freshmen, "back to school" means something entirely new this year – new schedules, new living arrangements, perhaps in a new city. This increased sense of freedom and responsibility can be exciting and overwhelming, and the student may have a difficult time making decisions. At the same time, parents can expect their emotions to run wild. They, too, will feel excited yet also incredibly nervous.
As the new college student spreads his or her wings, parents need to find a balance between hovering too much and being too distant. Family therapist Kelly Olson shares these tips for preparing your child, and yourself, for the great college adventure. (Click here watch a video of Kelly talking about this topic on North Dakota Today.)
- Expect that your child will begin to disengage prior to leaving. Alternatively, you may notice clingy behavior.
- Review tips with your child prior to the move, such as laundry care, insurance information, where to get the car repaired or do their banking.
- Plan to be present the day of move in. Schedule a day off, book a hotel room, etc.
- Keep your emotions at bay. Take a deep breath, take a break in your car, or step away as needed.
- Celebrate this time. Bake some special treats to leave with your child. Explore the new city together. Enjoy a celebratory meal.
- Don’t have an extended good-bye.
- Be supportive yet set limits. This is your child’s time to grow in independence, but he or she may still need your guidance. Your child’s behavior will guide you in your interventions.
- Connect your child with a family friend or adult in the new city.
- Be supportive. Encourage them. Tell them they will do fine. Remind yourself of this as well.
- Stuff a secret note in your child’s belongings. Send care packages.
- Remind yourself: This too shall pass. You are in a transition just as much as your child is. Consider taking some time to yourself. Relax, get a massage, etc.
- Now that you won't see each other daily, find new ways to communicate with your child, such as emails, text messages, or letters.