Great Advice for the Parents of College-Bound Kids

Excited UC Davis freshmen all over California are already starting to pack for their first year of college. Moms and dads however may be dragging their feet a little. If you’re the parents of a freshly minted freshman, and are feeling a little emotional, here is some sympathetic advice from HuffPo:

1. This is one of the most emotional times in the lives of parents, especially if they are bringing their oldest or youngest child to school. Bringing their first child represents the culmination of one phase of their family’s life and the beginning of another; they are moving from a period of stability as a family with children into the transition at the other end of which they will be a family whose children have grown…I tell the first time college parents that it will take them several months to adjust to their newly patterned family at home. I tell the empty-nesters that the adjustment will take several years. It will. But it is not all, or even mostly, bad. This is an exciting time, indeed.

2. I tell the parents that just because their children are at college, it does not mean that they are “college students.” The best description I have found is to say they are “high school students at college.” This is because it takes time to learn how to be a college student — how to study, how to eat, how to do laundry, how to play, how to handle money, etc. My best estimate is that this process requires about one semester by which time the students will have studied for and taken major exams, written papers, given in-class reports, messed up, done well, fended off the “freshman fifteen” weight gain, drunk gallons of coffee or other stimulating beverages, eaten uncountable pizzas and attended a variety of college events, some noteworthy, some forgettable.

3. During the course of normal events at college, your children will face problems that need solving. Roommate problems, social problems, registration problems, problems with specific subjects or professors. There are two ways for these problems to get solved. Way number one: parents call the school and talk to the Office of the Dean, or the Director of Residence Life, or even the president. What happens? The problem gets solved. Oh, but there’s one other thing that happens — their children are weakened. Not only are the children not given the chance to learn how to solve the problem and to grow in self-confidence from doing so, they are also “told” by their parents’ interventions that Mom and Dad do not believe that they can take care of themselves, increasing the likelihood that they will remain dependent on their parents to solve their problems which results in parents continuing to intervene which tells the students they can’t take care of themselves…You encourage your children and support them. Express confidence in their ability to deal with what’s going on and wait for them to work things out.

4. Think of what you want to tell your children when you finally take leave of them and they go off to their dorm and the beginning of their new chapter in life and you set out for the slightly emptier house that you will now live in. What thoughts, feelings and advice do you want to stick? “Always make your bed!”? “Don’t wear your hair that way!”? Surely not. This is a moment to tell them the big things. Things you feel about them as children, as people. Wise things. Things that have guided you in your life. Ways that you hope they will live. Ways that you hope they will be. Big things. Life-level things…As soon as you can after you leave the campus, write your child a letter — with a pen — on real paper — in your own hand. The first sentence should be something like, “When I left you at the campus today,(or at the airport , etc.) I could not tell you what I wanted to say, so I’ve written it all down…” Mail the letter to the child. It will not be deleted; it will not be tossed away; it will be kept. Its message will stick. Always.

Students, remember this is as hard for your parents as it is exciting for you. Be kind, and hug them often.

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