Tips for Parents

4 Steps to Balance and Fulfillment (As your student goes off college…)

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4 Steps to Balance and Fulfillment (As your student goes off college…)


By Shelli Graff Angel

Your son or daughter is heading off to college – an exciting and thrilling time, no doubt.  But, it is also a time of emotional transition for the entire family, a time that may leave you feeling shaky, sad or anxious.

One of the questions you may be asking yourself is, “Now what?”  The key is to move forward purposefully so you can you function fully, joyfully and healthfully during this wonderful yet sometimes stressful period of adjustment.

Below are four steps to take toward balance and fulfillment as you maneuver through the changes and challenges that occur when your student leaves home.

1. Practice Self-Care 

When you break a bone, you give yourself time to heal.  While sending your student to college is exciting, it also is a loss for everyone.  Life is different for the entire family and while the wound is not visible, it is there and in need of tender loving care. It’s important to get a lot of rest, eat well, and exercise. Crack open that novel you’ve been meaning to read. Take time to reflect; spend time in nature or write in a journal.  Surround yourself with supportive, encouraging friends. Chances are you have been working pretty hard getting your son or daughter to this point.  Take time to revel in a job well done, and give yourself the gift of a healthy, nurturing pause.

2. Practice Daily Gratitude

At times, it may be difficult to see the beauty in your life when all you see every day is the empty room in your home. Developing a daily practice of gratitude helps to begin the shift.  Each day write down or share with someone three things you are grateful for. A gratitude practice builds on itself, so even if you can only think of one thing, write it down. Doing this can help you to notice all the other wonderful things that you have in your life.

3. The Life Wheel Exercise

During a big transition, it is easy to forget about the many other aspects of your life.  A great tool to shift your perspective is the life wheel exercise:

  1. Draw a pie chart and write down the most important areas of your life as slices of the pie. This may include: Fun and recreation, personal growth, significant other/romance, career, money, health, friends and family, etc.
  2. Rate your fulfillment in each of these areas of your life on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not fulfilled and 10 being very fulfilled).
  3. Ask yourself what it would take for you to be more fulfilled in each area of your life and jot down two or three things you can do to accomplish this.

Through this exercise, you will get a bird’s eye view of your life.  You may notice that while getting your student ready for college, you have neglected other areas of your life.  What can you do to change that?  You may have more time to enjoy intimate dinners with your spouse or reach out to extended family and friends.  You can sign up for that class, or plan the vacation you have been meaning to take. These are ways to begin shifting right now.

4. Educate yourself on parenting your college student

Use resources such as UniversityParent to learn as much as you can about common challenges students will encounter as they adjust to college life. All the major booksellers offer numerous books and “survival guides” to help parents on this topic. The more informed you are, the better able you are to offer support as your student maneuvers through the college transition, and this will help reduce stress for both of you. A happy student usually translates into a happy parent, so the more you know, the more you will feel in control as you move forward.

Parents spend a great deal of time and focus preparing and sending their student off to college. Sometimes, the jittery pre-college summer and first year can be an emotional rollercoaster.  But, it does not have to overtake your life. These tools can help you stay present and balanced as you navigate through this journey, hopefully discovering a new sense of confidence, well-being and freedom along the way.

Resources for Further Reading

Co-Active Coaching, 2nd Edition – New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life, Laura Whitworth, Davies – Black Publishing, 2007

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter for additional tips and advice to help your college student succeed. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group

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