A Little Planning Can Help With This Parenting Transition

Well, Mom and Dad, you did it.

With love, support, and a few bumps in the road, your child is in the home stretch of all those years of school.

If you’re thinking about how they’ll survive (and you without them) if they go away to college, we’ve got some great tips to make the transition a smooth one.

When our kids go off to college, it means they are leaving home on their own for the first time – other than camp or a trip to the grandparents  – and it can be very tough to make it through this life change.

As parents, we’re worried about not knowing what they are doing every moment, and they may be a little fearful and anxious themselves as they embark on this new journey.

Being a parent doesn’t end when your child goes away to school – in fact, parenting never ends, and we’re good with that!

But the key to making this transition a bit easier for everyone lies in how and when we communicate with our kids.

We want to make sure they are adjusting well, that they’re safe, but we also want to foster their newfound independence as they take this first important step into adulthood.

First, establish some ground rules.  As your child prepares to go away to school, sit down and get everyone’s perspective on how and when you will communicate with each other.

Emphasize that you respect your child’s need for independence and getting settled in, but that you still expect that they check in and keep you posted on how things are going.  This is especially important if you have a younger student who is not yet 18 when they start college.

Put yourselves in each other’s shoes and respect each other’s expectations.  Set up a scheduled time to talk and establish how – some kids may want to email or text, and some will be homesick and want to hear your voice.  FaceTime or Skype are great tools for that, as well.

Discuss what the financial responsibilities are.  Will your child be working and paying a portion of their bills?  Or will you continue financial support?  Either way, an open conversation about taking care of these practical matters is in order.

And this is hard for parents, but let your child take the initiative.  This is their first “real world” experience.

U.S. News and World Report suggests:

“…be flexible and take cues from your child. By being flexible, you’re helping your child become independent and you are also showing your trust and respect for your child’s decisions.”

They will need time to settle in.  They will be making new friends, learning their surroundings, and getting used to college-level work.

Give them the space they need to thrive in their new environment, but always be willing and able to offer the love and support you always have.

Just as you let them initiate contact, also allow them to direct the conversation when you do talk.

They will have a lot of new experiences to talk about so the best thing a parent can do is listen, listen, listen.

The time will come when they will ask how everything is going at home, but for the first few months, be that shoulder for them to share all that is going on – let them be the focus.

All kids are unique and the way each child adapts and reacts to this new experience will be different.

Your child may embrace their new independence, making you feel like you’ve been left out.  There’s a reason they call it an empty nest.

These kids may not call as often or share as much as you’d like, but let them take the reins for now as long as you know they are safe and doing well.

Others may be extremely homesick and have trouble adjusting.  They may call constantly and be anxious and overwhelmed.

Reassure them, offer support, and give them a little nudge to give this new chapter in their lives a chance.

There are no right or wrong ways to communicate with your child who has left home to attend college — but allow them to be your guide for how much or how little communication they want to have now.

They will always be your babies, but this is a natural part of growing up and becoming an adult and these experiences will serve them well.

Take heart, moms, and dads.  This is what you have worked towards all those years.

It is hard to let go after 18 years of constant supervision and contact, but that bond will never break and giving them the freedom to discover themselves on this new journey will bring you closer in the long run.

And just think, this can be a time for you and your spouse to reconnect, to pick up new hobbies, to take new adventures, or just to sit and reflect on the beautiful journey of raising your child.

And maybe there will be a little less laundry to do.

Do you have a child away at college?  How did you handle the transition when they left home?  Leave us your thoughts.

 

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