The first day of school can be an emotional time for any parent. But when it comes to sending your kids off to college for the first time (or for their senior year), the stakes can seem much higher. Dealing with empty nesting and worrying about how your child will do when they are no longer under your care is never easy. However, you can address your fears, anxieties, and worries with several simple coping methods and strategies.
Worry: The Loss of “Parenting”
The eighteen-plus years you spent watching your child learn and grow were certainly some of the most wonderful and fulfilling of your entire life. It’s natural that when that time comes to an end and the child goes off on their own, the parent may feel a sort of loss or vacancy we commonly call “empty nesting.”
Here’s the good news: you’re no less their parents than when they were in elementary school or in high school. In fact, many college students will need your love and guidance more now than ever before! Finding the balance between over-parenting (i.e. treating them like a child) and providing guidance and support can be difficult. One of the best ways to build a healthy relationship with a new college student is to talk directly to them like you would a friend. Be honest, upfront, and share with them your feelings.
Worry: They Will Fail Without You
Some students hit their stride when they are more independent. Others need a push. No matter where your kid is, it is important to remember that they are now responsible for their academic results. There’s no helping them on science reports or reminding them a million times of their big test.
So how do you deal if or when your kid struggles to keep up? Provide them with resources at their school. This might take a little research on your part, but remind your student of tutoring centers, encourage them to see their academic advisor, and offer up your own editing help on a paper.
However (and this is a BIG caveat), you need to remember that they are adults and overstepping will not help them. Professors, advisors, and college administrators frown on or forbid parents from calling their offices or attempting to fight a student’s battles. While you can provide phone numbers or locations, do not cross the line and step in for them.
Worry: They Won’t Fit in or Get Along
College is a different experience for every student. Like high school, there are cliques and social groups, and it can be hard to make your mark or find your kind of group. Watching from afar as parents can be even more nerve-wracking!
With students that are more on the shy side or are having problems getting along with roommates, think positive. What is your student’s best characteristic? Share with them why they are great in your eyes and encourage them to seek out spaces where they will be appreciated (like a club or sorority). A little positivity can boost their spirits and help them remember that making new friends is only temporary.
Worry: They’ll Be Homesick
While you may be more concerned that you’ll miss them, don’t forget that they will miss you too (if not more)! College can be scary for them, even if leaving home for school has been their dream. That’s why it is important to share a bit of home with them.
Schedule phone calls, send fun and unexpected care packages, exchange emails regularly, and plan in advance for weekend visits. With your love and support, you both will get through the first semester (and beyond) of a new school year.
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