Tips for Parents

How to Cope With Changes in Your College-Going Child

The ties that bind are the ties that are strongest; they’re invisible, yet they’re the ones that we find hard to break. That’s why parents have a tough time letting go of their children — their heartstrings are tugged when their child takes his/her first steps, when they board the school bus for the first time, when they go off to college, when they get married, and when they become a parent for the first time. The dynamics of the relationship change with each change in the child’s life, and going to college is a momentous occasion that both parents and children will find sentimental.

It’s a big step for both of you when your student is leaving home for the first time — he is no longer a baby but an adult going off to college, away from your care and protection. You’re going to find it tough to let them go, and he too is going to miss you terribly initially. However, kids being kids, your student will probably adjust to his new environment faster than you’re able to adjust to his absence, and because of this, you could have a hard time dealing with what you perceive to be “changes” in his behavior and attitude towards you. At this point, you need to remember that:

  • Your son does not love you any less just because he loves college. Don’t be offended or hurt if your student does not call or write home often. He’s just having a good time at college, a totally new experience for him and is slowly outgrowing his dependence on you.
  • It’s a good thing that he has adjusted well to college life. You should be happy and satisfied that he’s getting on well in college; it means you’ve done a good job of being a parent — you haven’t tied him too tightly to your apron strings. Also, if he misses home too much, it could interfere with his ability to concentrate on his studies and cause depression and stress. So tell yourself that it’s a good thing that he doesn’t seem to miss you too much.
  • You mustn’t interfere too much in his life. Don’t be a nosey-parker and demand to know all that he’s doing in college every time he calls home. Give your student room to grow emotionally and mature on his own. The longer you hold his hand and spoon-feed him, the longer it takes for him to learn how to take care of himself. So learn how to let go, and wait for your son to come to you for help and guidance if he needs it. (Parents, this article has some great tips about when it is appropriate to step in and help.)
  • You now have time for yourself. Do what it takes to raise the quality of your life instead of focusing on missing your child. Get in touch with your social circle, do the things that you love, spend quality time with your spouse and other children, and stay busy at all times. This helps you from missing your college-going child too much and prevents you from obsessing about what he’s doing. It’s harder to let go than to hold tight, but as a parent, there are times when you need to do both — it’s your responsibility to know when to do what.

This guest post is contributed by Carrie Oakley, who writes on the topic of online colleges.

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for additional tips, insight, and to help your college student succeed. You may also add to the discussion and get feedback from  fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group.

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