I didn’t get the opportunity to go away to college. It’s the one thing I regret the most. Because of this I always encouraged my sons to think about out of state colleges. I wanted them to experience certain freedoms and interactions that they would not have received if they stayed nearby. Yet the one thing I didn’t consider when I encouraged them was their absence and what it would do to me mentally.
When my oldest, Karl, went to college, I felt like my heart was ripped out my body. I missed seeing him everyday. I even missed the crazy, hectic mornings when we all tried to use the bathroom at the same time! Unreal, I know. But I did.
So after his first week at college we devised a plan. This plan helped him cut the cord, while still offering him support. It also helped me and my youngest adjust to his absence.
Below are my 5 Tips for Parents of New College Students. I hope they help you as much as they helped us!
Set Up a Call-In Schedule
Karl and I agreed to chat once a week on Sunday at 8:30pm. During that call we shared stories, talked about school and just connected. At the end of the call, we also prayed together as a family.
The scheduled calls were a life-saver when he first went to college. It eased my mind, while making sure I gave him the space he needed to grow. It also let him know that he was supported and never alone.
Follow One Another on Social Media
This one was uber important for us. Not just because I work in social media, but because it helped me connect with my son on another level. I got an opportunity to see him with his friends in a different setting. It showed me who he was becoming, allowing me to start seeing him as a friend, as well as a son. This paved the way for the next stage of our relationship, setting a foundation of mutual respect and friendship. I am honored that he now calls me one of his closest friends.
Note: This part is crucial. Do not, I repeat, do not comment on every post. This would seem stalkerish and no one likes a stalker.
Listen With Your Ears as Well as Your Heart
Being able to connect with my son on social media and during our check-ins allowed me to listen to him with my ears, as well as my heart. There were weeks when we spoke a few minutes and others where we spoke for hours. I learned to read in between the lines without stepping on toes. I also learned when to take a step back so he could solve his own problems and when to intercede.
Let me explain…
My son’s first week at college was his trial by fire. He had a roommate from hell that locked him out of his dorm room the very first night. His roommate pushed Karl’s bed against the door and barricaded him out of the room. No matter how hard he pushed, or loudly he banged on the door, the roommate would not let him in. Karl called me but my cellphone was on silent and we had no house phone. Thankfully, Karl was able to sleep in a friend’s room that night.
The next day when I woke and saw he had called, I called Karl back. I offered to call the school on his behalf, but he chose to deal with it himself. We discussed how best to handle the situation and eventually he was able to transfer to another room.
Although it wasn’t planned, that incident gave Karl strength. It showed him he could handle being on his own, even in the worst of circumstances. It also taught me that I shouldn’t be so quick to offer help. I’ve since learned to listen with my ears and my heart. It’s a true balancing act.
I don’t always get it right and neither will you. That’s OK. This journey has no road map.
This was a big one for me. As a single Mom, I often had doubts. I second guessed myself more times than I can count. I wanted to be there for my son, without emasculating him. I knew that giving him space to make mistakes would help him become self-reliant. I had to let him make mistakes and feel the effects of those mistakes. Otherwise, he would not learn what worked and what didn’t.
Experience can be cruel but we can be kind. Let them make mistakes. This is not a time for I told you so’s! Don’t kick them while they’re down. While you’re at it, be kind to yourself too, and drop any Mom guilt – see my last tip. Remember, it would be crueler to save our children and allow them to believe that there are no consequences for their actions.
Just Say NO!
This last one was the hardest one for me. I had to learn to just say NO! As Moms, we’ve taken care of our kids since birth. We teach. We train. We hug. We love. We also second guess ourselves. Did we love them enough? Did we teach them well? Did we do prepare them for the challenges they will face? The list goes on and on. Add to that the newest “expert” telling us what we should have done and it’s no wonder Moms carry so much guilt! So I’m here to tell you ¡BASTA! / STOP! Just say NO! You did the best you could with the info you had at that moment, so in Elsa’s words, Let it go!
It’s not only a new chapter for your college student, its a new chapter for you as well. Enjoy it!
Let’s talk! Is your child heading off to college or do you have a child in college already? What are you most worried about? Feel free to share your radical honesty in the comments below!
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