In just a few weeks your child will be leaving for college for the first time. How could this be happening? How could a person who puts empty cartons back into the refrigerator, and doesn’t seem to know there’s an off-position for lights, be ready to go to college? Trust me, he/she is wondering the same exact thing. Have you noticed things have become a bit testy? Are there some old fights/issues cropping up? Have you caught her/him reading Winnie-the-Pooh? Don’t worry, everything’s fine. It’s completely and utterly normal for everyone to be a bit skittish right now. The only reason to worry is if in fact there is something over which to worry. (If your child has health issues [physical or mental] please take their behavior seriously, they may be trying to tell you they’re not ready.) For everyone else there are some pointers to help mitigate the “I can’t wait to get the hell outta here/OMG I’m going to miss you so much” anxiety.
- Eliminate ambiguity – some anxiety stems from so much unknown. Discuss what your mutual expectations are (i.e., visiting schedules, spending money & how it should be used, academic achievements, communication plans)
- Take your packing cues from the incoming freshman. Do you really want to spend every waking moment for the next few weeks discussing the state of his/her room? Part of what will make your student feel confident is if he/she has control over his/her domain. Ask if he/she wants you to shop/pack with him/her. If not, go put your feet up.
- Discuss all incoming requirements (doctors appointments, forms, etc.) and then back away. End the tug of war while getting used to his/her new independence.
- Discuss sex and personal safety.
- Discuss drinking and drugs in terms of real danger (i.e., date rape, death) not in terms of your own personal preferences.
- Discuss how you want their world to be as big as possible and to not do anything that might limit his/her options.
- Remind him/her how proud you are and how excited you are for them
Now that you’ve done all that, pour yourself a cold glass of something. Make yourself comfortable and try to remember where you keep the rubber bands. Place one on your wrist and snap it hard every time your resolve starts to crumble. When you start reaching for your phone to make his/her physical appointment; Snap! When you find yourself surfing the Bed, Bath & Beyond site; Snap! As you sit sipping, admiring your new bracelet, remember; this is what you dreamed about. You did it! You helped to make a person who is going off into the world, hopefully to leave it better than he/she found it.