Sending a child off to college or away from home for the first time can be a nerve-wrecking experience for a parent. But there are several things you can do to help make the transition smoother.
As important as planning for the future can be, over-planning and overanalyzing any situation can cause unnecessary anxiety. If your child has a fall break as a college freshman, perhaps you don’t need to decide right now if he will come home for it—he hasn’t even left yet! Many parents set expectations in advance regarding how how often they should communicate via phone or emails. This is another example of something that might be better left unplanned; let communication habits happen naturally. Obviously there are probably several conversations you’ll want to have with your child before he leaves that involve things like finances, drinking, navigating school resources, etc., but don’t create undue stress by sweating the small stuff. Leave it to your child to ask for help as the need arises, since self-advocacy skills are a critical part of young-adult development.
Spend Time Teaching Adult Things
Now is the time to teach your child how to do some of the things you may have done for them for years–things that you both might take for granted. For instance, does your child know how to do their own laundry? Manage an online bank account? Write a check? It may sound silly, but there are probably at least a few “grown-up” things that you need to cover with your child before they leave. This also makes for quality bonding time.
Strike a Balance Between Dependence and Independence
Let’s face it: even when young people leave home for college, they are still in developmental limbo between adolescence and adulthood. It can be helpful to have broad conversations with your college-bound child about your respective hopes and expectations while away. It’s important to express your parental expectations regarding everything from study habits to dating to drinking as long as you allow for the fact that your role is now primarily one of influence, not control. Even as you encourage your child to be independent and responsible, reassure him or her that you’re always just a phone call away.