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.