It’s been a few weeks since parents dropped their recent high graduates off at college and, like a New Year’s Resolution that falters in February, the resolve to “let go” may be wearing off.
The evening quiet might have turned from refreshing to lonely. And a glimpse of a school bus carrying all those younger kids back to school might trigger a bout of anxiety.
Is he safe? Is he staying out too late? Is he doing his homework? Why hasn’t he returned my text?
“Parents have 13 school years of involvement and then they are expected to suddenly stop entirely when their child goes to college. It is a hard transition.
“In today’s society, parenting has often become more about making our kid’s happy and making their lives easier (so we did the college applications, etc.) Instead of parenting that means ‘helping them survive in the world without us.’”
Now it’s time for a new lesson, she said.
“At some point, a child needs to take responsibility for his or her choices. If the new college student really cannot do the work without the parent helping or take responsibility for their work, then they probably are not ready for college. Of course, parents can proofread the odd paper or be a sounding board for ideas. But parents should be looking for ways to help the child help himself,” she said.
Easier said then done, no?
Barnes has some specific ideas on what exactly a parent can do to keep in touch “subtly” and transition from a hovering high school parent to a sounding-board supporter.
In terms of academic worries, Barnes said, a parent can rely on the established system within the college.
“Parents can suggest the student speaks with a freshman advisor. But a parent should not be going with the student to meet the teacher when the child gets his first D- grade, as is happening too often on college campuses,” she said.
What about safety concerns?
“Virginia Tech was a tragedy. But 24/7 media coverage and the horror of the event lead us to believe it is a common occurrence.
“Most colleges have excellent cell phone notification systems that even parents can sign up for to be alerted by text message of troubles on campus. But, be prepared for alerts about short water shut-offs in dorms, small refrigerator fires, and the tree removal in the A12 parking lot.
“Most colleges run excellent orientation seminars that are required for all entering students on the topics of date rape, alcohol, violence, and drugs. Many schools offer a driving or shuttle service that students may call if they have had too much to drink. They can call and they will not be expelled. Of course, this is not something colleges advertise in their school catalogue.”
There’s no need to turn away, though, and, in fact, a college freshman is likely to face a slew of new academic and social pressures. He might need to know a parent has his back.
“Parents shouldn’t be too obvious,” on this front, she said. “Your child may be able to cope better than you expect.
“Plan a fun weekend with your student to go ‘bungee jumping’ or somewhere pure fun. That will give your child a chance to open up to you about how they are and aren’t coping. Sending snacks like popcorn tins is a great parent strategy to help your freshman make new friends with a popcorn party in their dorm. Make a care package of their special favorites to keep them in touch with who they were and still are as they become a strong and independent adult.”
Now your turn … have you send a child off to college? How are you coping with the transition?