Eighteen years never seems so short until the day you move your child to college.
When I moved my oldest daughter into her dorm five years ago, I was determined to stay upbeat and excited for her big transition and send her off on a positive note. But truth be told, I was a mess. Every time I turned around, I swear she looked three again. And yet, here was my beautiful 18-year-old, ready to embrace her independence and impending adulthood. I, on the other, wanted to wrap her up in my arms and take her back to preschool.
I will be moving my 18-year-old twin girls to their respective dorms in just a few short weeks. And the emotions are bubbling just below the surface already. But I did learn a few things the first time around, so if you’re in the same boat this fall, here are six quick tips for parents of new college students that I’d pass along. And before I forget—pack extra Kleenex.
Don’t ask them if they’re homesick. The power of suggestion can be a dangerous thing. Yes, your student will miss you. But the first few weeks of a freshman’s schedule are filled with new classes, fun activities and new friends, so let them focus on those things. Chances are good they’ll have moments of homesickness, yes. But it’s better to let them bring that up. No need to remind them.
Stay in touch. Sometimes. Think you’re going to talk to your child every day? Think again. College is busy, and your child will hopefully embrace all it has to offer—that’s what you want to happen, anyway. So give them space and don’t bombard them with calls, texts and emails every day. Of course, stay in touch. But let your student set the pace.
Mail stuff. Your college student will love receiving care packages, and you’ll get in a good dose of parenting by assembling them. A monthly reminder of home may go a long way in treating homesickness. Just remember that if you’re sending something through snail mail, let your student know, as college kids don’t often check their mailboxes regularly.
Never call the professor, department chair or dean. There are no parent-teacher conferences in college. In fact, professors don’t want to hear from you. And regardless of the class, it’s up to your student to address any issues that arise. Not you. Your child is pursuing his or her own future—and this means allowing him or her to take responsibility.
Don’t install a GPS on your kid. Many well-meaning parents want to track their student’s every move at college, and with technology these days, you almost can. But resist this. Your baby is growing up, whether you like it or not. Let your young adult develop a sense of independence and personal responsibility.
Be an anchor. Keep your child informed about changes at home. College students want their parents to accept all the changes they’re making, but they want things to stay the same at home. This is just part of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. It’s important to let them know about things like room changes, news about pets, what’s happening in their siblings’ lives—anything that makes them feel involved as a family member.
Before you shop: As a parent, nothing is more rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time as moving your child to college. Check out some of our other great tips to help with the transition and the emotional impact.