College Parent Six Times Over
I’m not an authority on this subject because I’ve only sent six kids off to college. Every year for the past thirteen years, we have had one, two, or three kids in college. This fall I will have three in grad school (and paying their own way, so don’t feel sorry for us). My kids lived on campus and in apartments. Usually, their college was close enough that they were able to come home on weekends if necessary. I haven’t had my kids gone for an entire school year and we’ve had the opportunity to visit them on campus on occasion. Most of those years we still had other kids at home and/or had foster kids in our home.
There are some things I know.
- It’s hard. When you’ve spent eighteen years of your life investing in your child, it’s hard to see him leave. Moms show it more, but it’s hard for the dads, too. There is no way to go through this without the hard.
- Helicoptering is Over! At this important juncture, if you haven’t stopped being a helicopter parent, this is the time to do it. (Helicoptering isn’t a good idea to start with, but if that’s what you’ve done, then use this juncture to hang up your helicopter.) Your child is an adult. This might be the first time your kid is not living at home and living hours away from you where you can’t see or hug him every day. Even so, helicoptering is O.V.E.R.
- You need to Pray. Every single day. God is with them, so act like He is really there. Especially from a long distance, this is the single greatest way you can continue to have an impact on your kid.
- Let them go. Don’t fix things. If she misses a deadline, let her figure out how to fix it. Don’t do it for her. If she fails to study for a test, let it go. On second thought, if you’re paying her tuition, you could withhold your financial support if her grades are not what you want them to be. (We never had that problem because our kids paid their own way – thank you scholarships, grants, and loans.)
- The raising is done. We want them to become successful adults. We’ve raised them up. Now it’s time to let go and stop trying to raise them.
There are some Important Things You Can Do.
- Purchase items ahead of time that they might not be able to find in local stores. We purchased extra-long sheets for the dorm mattresses because finding them in just any store was difficult.
- Transport only essentials or sentimental things your kid wants to bring to college. You don’t know the layout of the room or how it might be best set up until you get there. Once you arrive and unload the essentials, you can make a Walmart or Target run to get anything else. This saves you from over packing and can simplify the process. There will almost always be something he or she forgets or finds is a necessity after settling in and unpacking. You’ll be making that shopping run anyway.
- Make a shopping list after visiting the room -Visit the room – apartment, dorm, etc. – where your child will be staying and set up what you brought. Make your list of what you need to get. Wastebasket? Floor lamp? Mattress pad? Cleaning supplies?
- First Aid Kit. Have a First Aid kit ready to leave with your freshman. For my guys, I used a fish tackle box and supplied it with these items: band-aids, cotton balls, Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone cream. Make a list of each medication and what it is for. Trust me, most kids will be clueless. If you’d like, include things like a thermometer, a tweezers/needle for removing splinters, Robitussin or Mucinex. When your kid is sick in the middle of the night, he will still call you (ask me how I know), but you can tell him what he needs to take. Your kid will probably hardly touch this First Aid kit until he is sick, but you’ll feel better knowing it’s there if he needs it. My kids ended up sharing their stash with other hallmates.
- Have access to his information. Especially if you are footing the bill, make certain you are able to view his grades online. He can withhold that from you, but if you’re paying, then you know what to do. If you want to keep up with his grades, there is a way to do it.
- His schedule and phone numbers. Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’ll roll his eyes on this one. Get a copy of his schedule so you can track him – if it’s that important to you. If he will be living off-campus with several roommates, make sure you have their phone numbers and the numbers of the parents in case there is an emergency with any roommate so you can get in touch with the other parents.
Coming Home After Goodbyes
- Returning home is hard. So is saying Goodbye. You must make it a goodbye. In the days and weeks after, don’t tell him constantly how much you miss him and don’t ask him to come home! Instead, ask about his classes, what he is learning, what he’s doing for fun, and what the high and low moments have been so far. He needs your support and encouragement. He does not need to be guilt-tripped into being away from you. It’s okay to say you miss him, but what he really needs to hear is that you love him and are praying for him.
- She may be homesick. You will be homesick for her, too. That’s okay. By encouraging her to get involved, become active in her classes and other organizations and try new things and meet new people – that homesick feeling will ease. For our kids, the college became their second home or home away from home. Your physical home will never be replaced, nor will your love for them.
- You are never far away when your prayers are reaching where he is. When you miss your kid, when you’re worried, or when you just wish he’d come home, use that as a catalyst to pray for him.
- Encourage her to stay at the college for the first three to four weeks. Don’t visit her during that time unless there is a real need or an emergency. Release her to bond with her new surroundings instead of being pulled back. Those first few weeks are key in making her new place her own in this next chapter of her life.
- You will always be the parent. You’ve done your part. No matter who his new best friends are, you will always be his parent. In the back of his heart and mind, he will know you’re in his corner, forever. You will always be the anchor, the stabilizing person in his life. Yet, it’s time for you as the parent to remain the parent as your child learns in a new place, further develops, and faces the next chapter of his life without you there. Be in the wings, cheering him on! Being the parent also means speaking Truth when it is needed. While you can no longer dictate some things, you can keep being honest and Truthful about the things that matter most.
- Trust God to use the college years to challenge him, grow him, and develop him into the person He calls him to be. Trust that the college years can really challenge him, strengthen him, grow him and further develop him. Pray for this to happen. Don’t ever stop praying. When you have prayed, leave the rest to God.