For the New College Parent: Your First Night Without Them


new college parentI’ve been reading all the posts from parents of new college freshmen. I expected the emotions, tears and general feelings of loss a new college parent might feel. But I never expected the panic, paranoia, and frantic behavior that many have exhibited. No judging here; just an observation.

I get it. I’ve been there.

Both my son and daughter left home after high school. My son joined the Marines. My daughter went 2000 miles away to college.

With my son, I received one letter informing me he had arrived at boot camp and was safe. Until his graduation, I did not receive a phone call or another letter. It was rough. But it never occurred to me to call his commanding officer of the boot camp and inquire about him or ask why I hadn’t heard from him. I knew this was a momentous step for him and he had to walk this path on his own.

With my daughter, it was a little different. I stayed a few days in a hotel near her to help unpack. The first night wasn’t a cake walk. She told me when I left her after dropping her off that she wanted to transfer to a college closer to home. But, instead of overreacting, freaking out, or calling her advisor, I just waited. I knew homesickness would set in. I knew she would ask me to come and rescue her and take her home. I knew her boyfriend was begging her to come home. But I also knew that she was going to have to work things out on her own.

All throughout my daughter’s four years of college conflict arose. From her first few weeks of college and the boyfriend situation, to multiple roommate issues, to conflicts with friends, to the emotions of losing a very close friend in a tragic accident, to losing her grandparents—college was a hard emotional road for her. But, instead of running to her aid, I let her solve these issues on her own. She sought the comfort of friends, made concessions for her roommates and sought help when she needed it. She learned to solve her own problems.

What’s my point?

My point is that as hard as this step may be for both you and your new college student, the choices and decisions you make that first night and every night after that could very well impact how your child responds to college. Running to their rescue because they are crying or homesick will only harm them, and could often have devastating results. It’s time for some tough love. You must, under all circumstances, give them the space to work through their misery.

If you have done your job and taught them how to self-advocate, how to solve issues and conflict, how to find and use a support group, and how to work through their problems they will benefit more from using those techniques than you driving to college and taking them home. Ultimately, however, it’s your choice. But from one parent whose children thank her every day for using tough love and not giving in to their tears, it’s my best, and only advice.

I wonder if it’s because we live in an age of instant communication—staying in touch with texting and location apps on the smartphone. I also wonder if parents have become so frightened for their children that they hold them much closer than they ever did before. Whatever the reason resist the temptation to give in. Your child will thank you; maybe not now, but later when they graduate from college after living four of the best years of their life.

Read this article, Overparenting Our Teenagers and stand firm. It’s the best you can do for your student.

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