Sending your child off to college for the first time means facing the unknown. For the first time in their lives, you will have to deal with not being there to see if they are studying or taking care of themselves. And because of some additional restrictions, teachers and administrators may not even be allowed to talk to you about grades, progress, or other issues that may come up. Letting go of being a helicopter parent, especially if you were one during the high school years, takes a whole lot of patience, love, and trust. Here are eight ways to ensure you stay grounded.
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1. Establish Boundaries
Before your student heads off to school, discuss what level of your involvement you both feel is appropriate. Let them take the lead, and then follow their rules as best as possible. They should be the ones that cross the lines when they need you—not the other way around.
2. Set Up a Communications Schedule
Another good item of discussion during the first semester is having a communication schedule. Calling, texting, or emailing too much can cause your student to pull away or want to connect less. Instead, make a plan to have a long talk on a Wednesday when they are halfway through the week, and not burnt out from classes. You’ll find the conversation will be more open and effective when there is a lot to discuss.
3. Forget About Grades
In high school, the goal was to get the best grades so that your student could get into his or her dream school. Now, the endgame is to graduate with a job lined up. Sure, you want them to pass and have a sparkling GPA, but it is important to know straight A's really don’t a difference on a resume.
4. Focus on Yourself
The best distraction from focusing all your attention on your child is to focus on yourself. This is the perfect time to relax and enjoy the new kind of quiet. Go on a trip, book a spa date, take up a hobby, or even go back to school yourself!
5. Avoid Surprises
It may be tempting to surprise your student at school. Don’t. Avoid doing this at all costs. While most students have grown out of the “my parents embarrass me” stage by the time college rolls around, being blindsided with a visit on campus can feel like a violation of trust or an inconvenience to their newly established lifestyles.
6. Don’t Take It Personally
It may hurt to know that you’re no longer a part of their lives like you were in high school—but it’s not personal. Rather, it’s just the way your child grows. By constantly trying to be a part of their world or to take control of their actions, you are inadvertently stifling their development.
7. Get to the Bottom of Your Anxiety or Worries
Oftentimes, helicopter parents put pressure on their children because of a subconscious desire to live through their children. Whatever your motivation, understand why you feel you need to be involved so you can address it. For example, if you want your child to have opportunities you never did, take this time to enroll in a graduate program or to pursue a dream you have always had.
8. Celebrate Often
When a student discovers their new independence, almost anything could feel like a win. Praise them when they note they figured out how to use the laundry machines or compliment them on their dorm’s decor. When it comes to grades, celebrate passing, even if it isn’t the perfect expectation you may have.