Leaving the nest and heading off to college is a massive milestone for many teens.
What starts off as butterflies of excitement as they tour college campuses, begin to make future plans, and prepare themselves for graduation, may slowly turn more towards fear of the unknown as the big day draws near.
It usually takes packing up their childhood room and all their possessions for a teen to fully realize the gravity of the situation. While it’s all fun and new, the idea that their role within the home will never be the same again can bring about emotions neither you or them were expecting.
So, in what ways can you help your teen transition to college? As a parent you have the superpower to influence how smoothly the beginning of this new chapter will unfold.
Let’s talk about it.
Open The Path Of Communication:
Before they leave, talk to your teen about the expectations, fears, worries, and dreams they have. Are they excited to meet new people? What are they most excited about? What emotions are coming up when they think about leaving home?
As much as teens can't wait to get out into the real world and “be adults” the reality is, many of them struggle with sadness and extremely difficult emotions.
Allow your teen to talk without interruption. It’s critical to be a good listener so they feel comfortable coming back to talk to you in the future. Ask questions, dig deeper. Your child needs to know they can come to you without judgment in regards to any challenges they face as they move away.
Set Them Up For Success:
Professors (usually) have realistic standards when it comes to incoming freshmen, and most don’t expect them to be full on adults by any means. Remind your child of this if they worry about balancing work, life, and academics.
Setting your child up for success before they leave is vital in order to allow them to feel more confident and empowered in their decision to leave home. This may look like teaching them time management skills, organizational habits, communication standards, self care techniques, and more. These lessons will drastically improve their transition and make it a much more positive experience all around.
Encourage your child to attend office hours with their professor if they seem to be struggling. Remind them that’s exactly what they’re there for. They want to help!
Letting your baby go out into the big world can be even harder on the parent than on the child. However, as they make this huge life transition into adulthood, refrain from hovering too much. Let them spread their wings and fly.
In a world so focused on texting, calling, and social media it can become incredibly easy to take it too far - without even realizing it. While it’s entirely possible to stay connected to your kids while they’re off at school, constant communication with life back home is now what they need in order to find their footing.
It’s okay to reach out once in a while, but rest assured your child will contact you if they need something. In fact, if you’re worried about this, have a talk with your child beforehand. Let them know you won’t hover but will always be there for them, day or night.
Care Packages Always Win:
We’ve all heard the term “broke college student” and unless your child has landed a sweet gig while on campus, it’s likely they’ll be going without more than once. Even if your child is less than an hour from home, they may still be feeling somewhat homesick. This is where the power of care packages come in.
Everyone loves to receive mail, but when you’re a college student it hits differently. Care packages are a fun way to remind your child you love them and that they are missed. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or fancy, either. It could be as simple as a few of their favorite snacks and a handwritten note. The best part about it is the idea behind it. A few ideas for a care package may include:
● Dry Shampoo
● Body Wash
● New Towels
● New Sheets or Pillow Cases
● Self Care Items
● Granola Bars
● Essential Oil Diffuser
● Anything Sentimental From Their Hometown
If you don’t have the funds to send care packages as often as you’d like, consider sending one during finals week with an encouraging note, or before a holiday just to remind them you care.
Remind Them It May Not Come Easily:
Any major life transition will come with bumps in the road. This is just inevitable. Talk with your child about how they’ll handle major roadblocks such as juggling the immense amount of homework, or how they’ll work on confronting social pressures.
Part of the whole process of going off to college is self-exploration. Your child will get to know themselves better on a deeper level. This includes exploring new interests, dealing with irritating roommates, and even failing an exam. As much as we all want our children to succeed, part of life is experiencing and overcoming these challenges. It’s not only normal but healthy for our children to experience failures during this transition.
Allowing your child to fall without stepping in to help empowers them with resilience - a character trait that will take them far in their adult life.
A Positive Transition Is Possible:
While your child leaving home is no doubt a painful and sad experience, it’s entirely possible to have a positive and smooth transition into this new chapter of their lives. As a parent, accepting that this is the new norm will help you stop fighting the reality of the situation. Allow yourself to experience and discover new hobbies or interests as well! Not only is this chapter exciting and new for them, but it can be invigorating and refreshing for you as well.
With proper guidance, emotional support, and encouragement, your child can make their transition into college life easier all around. You may just be surprised at how much they’ll grow and transform as they step away from home.