Going away to college is a significant transition for both the student and the parent. The old ways of doing things are out the door. For parents who are used to being heavily involved in various aspects of there children’s lives, this is a difficult adjustment. You have spent years waking them up, making sure they study, encouraging them to go to sleep, and reminding them of important dates and deadlines. Now, they are on there own. You may be tempted to continue to help them, but it is crucial to their development that you don’t.
I have spoken to and coached many college graduates over the last few years. Almost all of them talk about how their parents were so involved in there daily lives that they never truly learned to become independent. College is supposed to be a time of growth, self-development, and transformation for a student. When you continue to do things for them, you rob them of this opportunity. Here is a list of what not to do as the parent of a college freshman.
Call The Teacher
You may be surprised that this even needs to be said. When I started my coaching, this wasn’t even anything that I considered had to be addressed. However, after conducting a research study that involved speaking to college employees, I was blown away by how much of an issue this has become. When a student is having trouble in a class, it’s the parent that ends up calling the teacher and requesting a meeting. This is a massive problem on several levels.
First, your child needs to learn how to communicate their issues on there own. Professors are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to having conversations with those in authority. Your child’s boss is going to be tougher and less accepting when they enter the real world. Second, the professor is going to lose respect for your son or daughter because they did not address the issue themselves. Lastly, your robbing your child of learning valuable life skills such as problem-solving and conflict resolution.
Wake Them Up For Class
Habits are tough to break. As a parent, you are used to waking your child up each morning and help them start there day. Thanks to cell phones, you can continue this routine if you wish. However, you are doing more harm than good. Yes, you can ensure they never miss a class, but at what cost?
Your child needs to learn to be self-reliant, and following a routine without prompting is a big part of that. Yes, it is possible they may oversleep in the beginning and miss a class. However, that is a valuable lesson that will stay with them for a long time. They need to understand their choices have consequences. It is better they learn this lesson now in college then be late for work and lose their job because of it. Again, it comes back to preparing them for the real world.
Give Into Homesickness
Many college students report feeling some degree of homesickness during their freshman year. This will be amplified if your child had several friends who are staying home for college. They may call home and dramatically claim how unhappy they are at college. What they are really saying is that they are homesick and looking for the same type of companionship and happiness they once had at home.
It is critical as a parent that you stay strong and suggest alternatives to coming home. For example, encourage them to attend campus events and meet new people. Suggest they study or watch TV in the common area and start a conversation. The best thing you can do is help them understand what they are feeling is universal and will go away. Make sure they know that they will soon find there new friends and things will get better.
Obviously, you are going to want to check in with your child while they are away. The key here is to limit the messages and give them the space they need. If you smother them too much, they will begin to resent you and dodge your texts and calls altogether. If you always remind them of home, they will become homesick, as mentioned above. Lastly, they may see this an opportunity to ask you to solve every problem they are having instead of figuring it out on there own.
My advice would be to let them call you on the phone. It may not be every day, but they will feel in control of the situation. As for text messages, try to let them text you first. If you want to text them first, make sure it is something important. An example of this would be wishing them good luck on a test or asking about how their weekend was. Examples of unnecessary texts include random images, just saying hi, informing them about where you are, or anything else that can come off as annoying or trigger homesickness.
Try To Fix Everything
When your child has a problem, their initial reaction will be to run to you to fix it. They won’t even try to handle the problem on there own. These types of issues will include but are not limited to roommates, people on their floor, professors, homework, dining hall food, and other minor, solvable problems. As a parent, this has been your job for 18 years. Of course, you want to jump to action and help them. If you do this, how will they ever become the adult you sent them to college to become?
When your child comes running with an issue, ask them to explain it in detail. Then, ask them what they have done to solve the problem. If they can’t answer that, tell them to think about it for a day and get back to you. Encourage them to solve their own problems, but let them know they can run a solution by you if needed. It’s much better to tweak their ideas then do everything for them at the start. This way, they will learn the valuable skills they will need when they enter corporate America after graduation.
Transitioning from high school parent to college parent is incredibly difficult. Your world seemingly changes overnight, and you long for feeling wanted and useful again. If you have not done so already, begin working with your child to make sure the above issues never even present themselves. If they do, guide them in the right direction but let them figure the issues and problems out for themselves.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.