Dropping your kid off at college feels much like that first time you left him with a babysitter. Some parents grieve hard, sobbing into a pint of Haagen Dazs on the drive home; some grieve more subtly, holding it together until forgetting to set the dinner table with one less setting.
Whether this is your first child to leave or you’re a veteran college parent with a truly empty nest, here are some tips to help ease the transition:
1. Respect your freshman’s independence.
Your child is capable of waking up on time, prioritizing homework, making friends and meeting with professors. New independence is a little scary, but it’s also an exciting adventure she deserves to experience.
- encourage her to try something new at least once a semester
- acknowledge the sometimes exhausting challenge of adjusting to college life
- remind him of helpful resources on campus (peer mentors, residence hall directors, university chaplains, etc.)
- try to resolve his conflicts for him
- “friend” her new friends on social media
- push him toward a major or plan his class schedules
2. Set expectations for communicating and visiting.
There is no perfect balance of how much to communicate with your student. Too little feels like neglect, too much can be smothering. Learn early how often your child would like to hear from you.
- express love through no-strings-attached messages (“Thinking of you!” instead of “What’s up?”)
- when you Do talk, ask open but specific questions like, “Which class will be your most challenging this semester?” or “Who on your floor has the coolest room?”
- send care packages or gift cards—the Alumni Office can help!
- expect calling home to be her highest priority
- pop in for a surprise visit
- neglect built-in opportunities to be on campus; Homecoming and Family Weekend is only 75 days away!
3. Celebrate accomplishments, but expect struggles.
Remember that freshman year can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. Your student needs encouragement. Be his most vigorous cheerleader, even if his first semester grades aren’t what you had hoped.
- praise her in every conversation
- expect his best effort, but encourage him when he feels overwhelmed
- compliment her as an adult (“I’m impressed with you” rather than “I’m proud of you”)
- expect straight-A grades in the first semesters of college
- contact a professor regarding his coursework or grades
4. Celebrate the “new normal.”
With your child on his own, you’ll find yourself with fewer scheduled commitments. Take advantage of that extra time in ways that bring you joy.
- schedule a regular “date” with your spouse or remaining children during a previously committed time
- develop a new hobby, invest in a new interest or volunteer for a worthy cause
- allow room for your family members at home to adjust in their own way and at their own pace
- feel guilty for enjoying your newfound freedom
- leave your freshman out of the news from home
While you’ve no doubt been the best parent you know how to be, you’re leaving your freshman in the capable hands of the everlasting Father.
- pray specifically for her roommate, her professors and her friends
- subscribe to the NNU News e-newsletter to be informed about campus events to pray for
- keep the finish line in sight, and pray for his diligence and endurance
- forget that the Father loves your child even more than you, and He knows what it felt like to send his Son out into the world too