Tips for Parents
Defining the Relationship
Times they are a changin’. Your child is getting ready to embark on a new adventure and start college. Whether your student will move thousands of miles away or live in your basement, your role as parent will look different than it has until now. Before the change is official, make time to sit down and DTR — define the relationship.
If you knew your child’s high school schedule better than your own, this transition might be difficult for you. Agree with your student that you don’t need to know about all of his/her deadlines, study sessions or assignments. Gone are the days of you reminding your student to finish homework, do chores or study a little harder for a test. By decreasing your involvement in the day-to-day tasks, you will help your student learn responsibility and take ownership over his/her education.
If your student has “friended” you on Facebook, discuss boundaries. Is it OK to write on his/her wall? Become friends with your child’s friends? Tag him/her in pictures? Accept the possibility of your child editing privacy settings so you can’t see his/her wall, photos or other information. And if you suddenly find yourself “unfriended” – or were never “friended” in the first place – allow your child that privacy.
Discuss the expectations for phone calls and texts. For some students, calling home several times each day and a peppering of texts each hour will be average. Others will want to connect with their parents once a week. Talking about this can free both you and your student from feeling obligated to call or overwhelmed by too many calls. Bottom line? Be sensitive to your student’s needs while also maintaining healthy boundaries that will help him/her gain independence.
Chances are, your student will be exposed to and experience a lot of new things in college that you won’t hear about. But setting the precedent that you are available to listen and offer advice about anything will be a comfort to your student. If you bring up concerns first, it might be easier for your student to broach the subject later. Don’t shy away from tough topics like binge drinking, risky sexual behavior and drug use. At the same time, remember that adulthood comes from both mistakes and good choices, and your involvement might be limited to watching from the sidelines.
The unknown always accompanies transition. Even if this isn’t your first child to go to college, everyone handles change differently. Allow you and your student time to settle into your relationship. Don’t be alarmed if you fight more than normal, if one of you becomes needy or if the relationship becomes cool and distant. Be flexible and trust that your child is on the path to adulthood and independence, no matter how your role evolves.