You brought your daughter’s clothes and possessions to her new dorm room, and now you’re carrying empty bins back to your car. You’re driving cross state while your son tries to figure out which poster is going over the bed, and which is going over the desk. Every parent experiences a moment when they realize their college-bound child won’t be coming home.
Letting go is difficult, but that doesn’t mean the reality of it should be ignored – by either the parent, or the student. Parents and students should make a conscious effort to ease the transition between high school and college. The summer after senior year, a potentially drawn-out goodbye, can be structured to prepare everyone for the coming change. Consider:
Making a stay-in-touch plan. You and your student will soon have wildly different schedules. Set aside hours when both parties will be available to communicate with one another. At the beginning of the semester, parents might be surprised to discover they’re talking to their child more now because they’re no longer around. However, the tables often turn by the end of the semester. No one has to feel embarrassed or awkward about too many, or too few, calls if a regular schedule is in place.
Starting a calendar. A first semester communication plan isn’t the only schedule your student will have to stick with. College professors, campus events, and social groups don’t coordinate their demands around your student’s life. Your student will need to keep track of his/her own responsibilities. Why not start early?
Talking about finances. Your student will need a bank account that can be easily accessed from campus. Are you going to help them set it up? How much personal spending money will they need? Warn them about credit cards, overspending, financial responsibility.
Setting summer goals. Structure relieves anxiety. If students have things to accomplish with you, and by themselves, they are less likely to fall into bad habits over the summer. This could be as simple as drawing up a shared reading list.
Researching college resources. This is a summer project that could both occupy your student and set you at ease. Your student should know about the campus’s residential, health, and counseling services. Also, you should both know about any honors programs or internship tracts that he or she might need to prepare for.
Doing your own research. Most college websites have family and parent pages. These pages are frequently associated with an office at the college that specifically works with parents. You might find a reason to join a parent association. If nothing else, learn who to contact in case of an emergency, and where you should stay if you go to visit.
Discussing the physical aspects of moving. Nothing makes moving more traumatic than packing. However, talking about what will go to college, and what will stay, is a great way to ease into the idea of moving. Moreover, it’s sometimes easier to talk about practical decisions as a way of talking about change.
Assuring your student they will have a bed to return to. After a year, your student might not even want to return to their bedroom for the summer. In the interim though, the idea of a bed waiting at home provides security. Put off your plans for a new library, office, or guest room.
Asking questions. Ask a question, a follow up, and another follow up. Your student might be quiet about the impending change, but you can be sure that they are actively thinking about it. Help them process their thoughts by listening to them.