College is a huge step in life. It is stepping outside of a more structured environment to pursue interests that will impact one’s future. It is a time to explore a new environment, meet new people and challenge ideas. Here you will find a few ways to support your child through this change, while still allowing them the freedom to grow.
If your child is away from home, mail from someone familiar can be both exciting and comforting. Encourage other family members to send letters and cards as well. You can write about what’s been happening at home, how other family members are doing, or share a funny story. Don’t be upset if your child doesn’t write back. The independence of college is exciting and often leaves little free time, but your actions let them know you’re thinking about them.
Receiving a box with your name on it is always a nice surprise. Create a box of your child’s favorite snacks from home, a new movie or book, a gift card or something for their new home on campus. Send silly things just to make them laugh, or create a small photo album of recent happenings at home. You can send care packages as encouragement around exam dates, or on any other day throughout the year.
As a parent, you will be curious to know everything about your child’s new environment and routine. Avoid nagging and remember that your child wants to experience some independence. They will probably not tell you everything. Encourage their independence, but remind them that you are only a phone call away.
Happiness, Not Homesickness
It is not recommended that you ask your child if they’re homesick. They may be so busy the first few weeks of school that they aren’t even thinking about home. Asking that one question could really change their mood. Instead, focus on the positive things. Share the positive things happening at home and ask questions about college in a positive manner.
Most universities have parent weekends. After discussing it with your child, make plans to visit so they can show you around. Treat them to dinner if you can, or bring them something special from home. You can visit at other times of the year, but it’s best to arrange these times with your child. You never know what they have going on with school and it’s important to respect their independence, new responsibilities and new routine.
Give your child the freedom to handle schedules, deadlines and budgets. Don’t pressure them into selecting a specific major or class, or into joining a specific activity. It’s acceptable to let them know you will always be there to offer guidance, but allow them the chance to grow and learn from mistakes that will not cause any real harm.
The best thing you can do for your child is to let them know you care, and you will be there when you are needed. They will find comfort as you simultaneously acknowledge their new stage in life, and offer the stability and comfort provided the previous stage.
Get your best rest by establishing a routine
Although it may not seem like it, you are still growing in college. Your body is changing while you’re undergoing new stressors like being away from home, studying more and participating in campus activities. For both your health and your grades, it’s important to create an evening routine and a regular sleep schedule.
Follow a schedule
One of the best ways to insure you get enough quality sleep is to try and maintain the same sleep schedule. If you regularly wake at 8 am for classes on Monday, try to maintain that same waking time throughout the school week. On the weekends, do your best to stick to a similar schedule. If you spend a late night out with friends, do your best to get back on schedule the following day.
Work it out
Establishing an exercise schedule has also been shown to improve sleep. You don’t need to be a die-hard athlete to reap the benefits either. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour most days of the week. You can walk, dance, do yoga or perform a mix of cardio and strength training. It is best to fit in exercise in the morning or afternoon, as evening workouts can actually disrupt sleep.
Make good choices at the table
Deep fried and heavy foods can be more difficult for some people to digest. Focus on incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet and avoid having a heavy dinner, as intense digestion can impair your ability to fall asleep. Sip on water throughout the day to remain hydrated.
Don’t be tempted to skip meals. When your schedule fills up, make sure you are still eating balanced meals consistently. Both overeating and undereating can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Let go of the electronics
Some studies indicate that the use of electronics before bed can cause sleep disorders. For this reason, it’s best to turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed. Replace this time with light reading, listening to calming music, enjoying a warm bath or meditating. Avoid loud noise and emotionally stimulating books or music. The idea is to begin to turn your brain off for the evening so it can prepare for sleep.
Create a sleep zone
It’s easy to eat, watch movies and surf the web in bed; but none of these habits will do anything to improve your sleep. Save your favorite activities for other areas of your living space and maintain that your bed is used only for sleep. This is a way of training your brain and body to associate your bed only with sleep.
While it may be tempting to fill up on coffee and other caffeinated beverages to make it through a long day of classes, those same habits are likely creating a vicious cycle of poor sleep followed by tiring days. If you choose to include caffeine in your day, make it first thing in the morning so you’re more alert for classes. You’ll likely find that you have less trouble falling and staying asleep, and that you wake more refreshed.
Don’t let deadlines wear you down and keep you up at night. The second you receive an assignment or notification about an upcoming exam, set time aside during the day or early evening to take care of business. If you give yourself plenty of time to prepare, you will decrease the number of late night study sessions and fall asleep with greater ease knowing that you’ve managed to take care of your work.