You have made the rounds to Staples, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Barnes & Noble. The plastic bins are packed with extra-long sheets, blankets, toiletries, clothing for all types of weather, and perhaps a few snacks for those late night study sessions. Your son or daughter is ready to go to college. But are you really ready to send them?
“This is a time for re-invention,” says Rose Mitchell, associate dean of students at Bloomfield College. “Your student is going through one of his or her greatest transformations and parents need to celebrate the fact that their hard work has gotten their student to this point.”
Mitchell conducts parent orientation at Bloomfield College and counsels parents on how to let go and keep in touch. Here are some of the strategies she suggests:
Understand that both you and your student are anxious about this new adventure. “One of the strategies we employ at Bloomfield College with great success is letter writing,” explains Mitchell. “Write a letter to your student about what is in your heart. Reflect on their growing up; let them know how proud you are of them. Recall your family traditions and let them know that you love them and miss them. Try to keep it upbeat, but be real,” she says. “Wait about two weeks after they have started college before mailing it to them. I have students that carry their parent’s letter around with them in their wallets!” Mitchell also notes that in spite of technology, students still get a thrill from discovering something in their campus mailboxes.
Attend parent orientation or at least find out everything you can about the college or university. “Parents want to know that their children will be safe,” says Mitchell. “Talk to administrators, familiarize yourself with the college’s website, find out how they handle emergencies. You could visit the campus incognito to get an idea of what daily life is like for students.” Have the phone number of at least one administrator whom you could call with a question or concern.
Create a list with your student of top ten ways to let go and stay in touch. This is not a list of “do’s and don’ts;” it is a way of defining ways to share what is important. Discover how your student wants to hear from you – weekly phone calls, facebooking, texting, or visits. Don’t forget to celebrate the little milestones along the way.
Talk to other parents who are experiencing the same transition process. “We all have ways of coping; sharing these methods will give us new ideas as well as let us know that we are not alone,” says Mitchell.
Create a plan to discover the new you. Redefine yourself. “You were somebody before you became a parent,” Mitchell says. “Do things for you; pick up a new hobby, take a course or return to school yourself, volunteer with something that has nothing to do with your child’s activities, find your passion!” By engaging in activities that are of interest to you, you become more interesting to your student. “Let them be proud of you, let them know that you have a life separate from them and that you will be ok too.”
Finally, be creative in the ways to communicate. Find those things that are special to your family and let your student know that you are available for them. “Find the humor in situations while your son or daughter is in college,” says Mitchell. “Everything will not go smoothly, but they will learn from their mistakes and college faculty and staff are ready to help at any time.”