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RISING COLLEGE PARENTS - HOW TO SURVIVE THE SUMMER

RISING COLLEGE PARENTS - HOW TO SURVIVE THE SUMMER

To some it will come as a surprise, to some a relief – your job description is still ‘parent’. You are still going to be involved in the demands and concerns of your student as he or she moves into a new experience. The difference is that now that you will speak when spoken to!
The following are a few ideas on how to ease into this new phrase of parenting:

  •   Accept that this a time of transition – yours and theirs
  •   Try to roll with the mood swings – it isn’t as if you haven’t had practice
  •   Independence in your student is a good thing – you really want it, so encourage it
  •   Practice treating your student as an adult – you may question their ability, but you didn’t think they would ever be potty trained, remember?
  •   If possible go to the parent orientation programs given by the college – it will help ease your mind – maybe
  •   Don’t be surprised if your student encourages you to leave the campus once you have hauled all their stuff up three flights of stairs – usually they are ready to move on before you are

Karen Coburn in her book “Letting Go” (an excellent ‘how to’ book) suggests four areas that if discussed ahead of time, may help to avoid “unnecessary friction and misunderstanding”:

1. Communication:

  • Accept that this is all about issues of separation, control and independence. Better communication will mean an easier time of letting go.
  • Write letters and or email – your student does want to hear from you, although you will never hear them say it. Accept as truth, that you will want to communicate and hear about their lives more than they will think necessary.
  • Phoning can work, but it really has to be on their timeline – which probably means 1:00AM. Encourage calling by supplying a Call-Home card or tell them to reverse the charges – money finally has some meaning and if you want to hear from them, you may have to foot the bill! Suggest using a cell phone with a family calling plans. 
2. Finances:

  • Be honest and straightforward about financial expectations – both theirs and the yours. Who is paying for what? Your student may surprise you with resourcefulness and a willingness you didn’t think possible
  • There are hidden costs when attending college – lab fees, supplies, laundry, entertainment, toothpaste. It may take some time to get a handle on what these extras will cost. 
  • If you are sending an allowance, think about sending a set amount on a monthly or semester basis. Your student can learn financial responsibility if and when s/he runs out of money because s/he blew it on a non-essential. 
  • If you are divorced, try to solve the financial questions without putting your student in the middle.
  •  Remember: learning financial responsibility will enhance your student’s over all independence as an adult – this is good!
3. Academics:

  • A’s and B’s are not the pay back for your financial sacrifice
  • A superstar in high school is not necessarily one in college – in selective colleges, 90% of the class are superstars
  • If your student is a late bloomer, don’t nag – it won’t help
  • Adjust academic expectations – an honest C is better than a cheating A
  • Be supportive, flexible and open to changing majors – your student is finding new areas of interest and experimenting with new ideas for careers  – remember the choice is not yours, it is your student’s

4. Social Life:

  • Put away your fantasy about college life – it may not be reality for your student
  • Encourage participation in extra-curricular activities – the college experience is more than classroom learning.
  • Trust that your student’s value system is formulated by years of listening and watching you. It is hopeless to think that you are going to make any great adjustments to their behavior, morals and values at this point.
  • Let your student know that you understand that some of the social decisions he/she will have to make are going to be difficult and that you will always be there to talk to and help if needed. And then cross your fingers!

And, congratulations to you! Enjoy these years with your student as you watch them grow and become the mature, independent adults. That is what all these years of parenting were all about.

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants