Preparing for Change

For teens, going off to college represents a huge change in their lives. But this change can affect the parents and guardians just as much. While you are proud and excited about their accomplishments, there can also be a feeling of loss and separation. Dealing with these mixed emotions can be difficult, but are normal. Handling these changes can be easier if you keep these tips in mind:

Stay connected.

There can be some truth to "absence makes the heart grow fonder" but parents or guardians may worry that "out of sight means out of mind." So you and your student need to determine ways to stay involved in each other's lives and remember to say and do the little things that matter. Cards sent home, care packages sent to school, pictures of events that were missed, and email and phone calls do provide a way to stay connected and involved.

Adjust to a new relationship.

As you play a new role in your teen’s life, try to adjust to the new adult-to-adult aspect of the parent-child relationship. Children always need parents, but the relationship may become more peer-like. 

Expect ups and downs.

One minute college students are the models of independence, the next they call in tears. This back and forth is natural and expected, as both students and parents become more comfortable and confident in the ability of students to handle situations on their own.

Redirect your time and energy to new activities.

With your parenting time now free time, taking stock of personal interests and assets will reveal areas of your life that may have been neglected. It can be time to develop, reawaken, and pursue old and new hobbies, leisure activities, and careers.

Allow for mistakes.

You should encourage and accept the child's ability to make independent decisions. Both the college student and the parents must realize mistakes will be made along the way - it's called life. Learning from mistakes is just another type of learning.

Guide rather than pressure.

Communicating educational goals and expectations should be done in a manner respectful of your student's own style and interests. College students need to pursue their own passions. Although parental input can be useful, children should not be expected to live out their parents' dreams. Take this quick, funny but thought-provoking quiz to see if you may have some "helicopter parent" tendencies. You can also check out this interesting article providing tips for establishing and thriving in this changing relationship.

Tips from the NYU Child Study Center