If you are reading this, your student is beginning an exciting transition in your relationship. The start of college is a major developmental milestone for both families and students, whether your college student lives at home or independently. You clearly have been successful in fulfilling your job description to this point, but now your role is changing.
Most parents and families face this change with mixed feelings. The daily responsibilities of overseeing activities, academics, meals, morals and even moods are diminished. You have to loosen the reins and hope that you have been a good enough life coach so that your student can be successful. One parent lamented something like this, “I feel like I’m being fired from a job that I love and I’m not ready to leave.”
Please notice that the “parent and family alert” above announces a job change not a termination. Preparing for the changes ahead with your college student will help make the transition smoother for both of you. Most of our students are still dependent on you in some ways—financially, for example. You may ask yourself, “Don’t I as the parent/family member have the right to be involved in some decisions?” Of course! However, a more collaborative approach seems to work better for most parents/families and their college students. Continuing to be too involved and in charge deprives them of the opportunity to manage the consequences of their own actions and deprives you of the hard earned freedom to pursue new interests and activities.
So what does this new job look like? Here are some of the challenges of the changed job description:
Now let’s focus on your college student. What might they be thinking as they transition? What are their challenges? Many report feeling a bit disoriented. The campus is unfamiliar—new buildings, unfamiliar schedules and vocabulary, new faces, and professors.
Temporarily, they may experience a loss of confidence. Some feel like imposters. They are sure that the admissions office made a big mistake accepting them. They fear that are not smart enough to be successful in college. They manage their anxiety and insecurities in different ways. Some act as if they have it all together. When you ask them how they are doing, all you get is “fine” even though both of you know that’s not true. Others seem to regress and want more of your time, attention and reassurance. Most of these reactions are normal and temporary.
With time and patience, you will be pleasantly surprised that your relationship with your student is transitioning to one that is enriching, enjoyable, and rewarding. Listening to your student share their excitement about learning and their vision for their future is a wonderful benefit of your revised job description! Enjoy it and remember that the staff at the Counseling Center is always available for consultation along the way. You can reach us at (303) 556-4372.