The back-to-school season has a different connotation when your kids aren't just hopping on the bus or waving to you from the classroom door. For some parents this month marks the first time they've sent their kids away to college. Instead of checking in over the dinner table every night, parents must find the balance between emotional support and letting their kids make their own way.
Dr. Valerie Allen is a private practice psychologist in Melbourne who specializes in school psychology. She says that the college transition for parents and kids can be difficult to navigate.
"There are a lot of emotions for parents during this time. Sadness — their baby is leaving home. Anxiety — what might happen to him or her? Guilt — did I do enough to prepare them? Relief — one less child underfoot," Allen said.
One way to deal with anxiety is to address potential issues upfront. Parents should never assume that their kids know how to act with their new-found freedom.
"Discuss your expectations about grades and behavior before they set foot out of your door," Allen said. "Set standards and consequences if not met. Who will pay if they have to repeat a course? Will they be allowed to come back home if they are placed on academic probation? Will they be allowed to continue at the university if they do not meet expectations or will they have to live at home and attend the local college? Should they have a job? Who pays for their food plan, car, insurance, medical bills?"
Allen also says that while college is a time to exercise independence, it's important for parents to not completely let go.
"Parents need to set up a schedule of contact at least weekly, if they can do video chat this is even better," Allen said. "Ask open-ended questions. Ask about dorm and apartment issues, finances, classes, professors, friends, social events, leadership and volunteer activities."
We asked a few parents who have already sent kids off to college for their pieces of advice for parents doing it for the first time. These are those responses:
"Wait a week before you call them. If you don't hear from them every day, that's OK. It means they are making friends and keeping busy."
Marie Revak Yelle, mom of two
"Make sure you have taught them how to budget time and money. At least as well as they will listen."
Pat McCleary, mom of two
"Buy half of what you think you need. They can always go to the store to get what they didn't buy."
Liz Battista, mom of two
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