Your child is headed off to college. Parents, congratulations for a job well done. You have invested 18 years to ‘train this child in the way he/she should go’. Now what do you do? As your heart prepares to walk out the door, here are some tips that may help with the transition:
1. FIND A CHURCH HOME AWAY FROM HOME
One of the best pieces of advice I received and practiced when my first two children headed off to college was to help them find a place to worship. This practical yet necessary task goes beyond handing them a list of churches in the area. Show them how to get there whether by bus, metro or uber, and attend the service with them. Many of you may be thinking that since my son/daughter is going to get involved in on-campus faith groups like CRU or FCA, they won’t need an outside church”. Others of you may reason that since my son/daughter will be attending a Christian college, another day of church is unnecessary. The opposite is quite true. Having a church family away from the college realm is crucial. Your son/daughter will benefit from mature wisdom and mentoring by church members. Having an outside church family may also provide a safety net should your son/daughter not be able to make it home for a holiday. It’s also a nice way to get off campus now and again.
2. SCHEDULE COMMUNICATION
As in any family, communication is key. Since there are so many ways to communicate these days such as twitter, snapchat, instagram, face-time, skype, and text, determining how and how often you communicate will help with the new college experience. Consider time differences and your child’s schedule. When my first child left for an east coast school, we forgot to take into account the time difference. Having a consistent ‘date’ set prior to your student’s departure can provide some stability in communication expectations.
3. MODIFY YOUR PARENTING STYLE
With every major milestone there is a slight shift in parenting. Remember, that just because your child is at college, does not mean they don’t need you. They definitely need you to be his/her parent. Children listen more than we think they do. There will be many temptations and moral issues such as alcohol, drugs, sex, for them to face. (yes even at a Christian College). Help them navigate by challenging them to consider consequences. Keep the communication lines open without threatening. Occasional check-ins, sending encouraging notes, inspirational quotes or bible verses communicate your love for them. Make sure they know you are there without bombarding them.
4. LET THEM HAVE SOME SKIN IN THE GAME
It is reasonable for college student to have a part time job. Don’t feel like you have to supply every item on their wish list. It is important for your child to take some ownership of his/her own education. Help them understand the costs and encourage them to participate in sharing some of the financial aspects. A part time job also helps them manage their free time.
5. MAINTAIN A BALANCED VISIT SCHEDULE
If your child wants to come home every weekend, consider telling them they can’t. It is important for your child to make connections socially. Much of this happens on the weekends and away from class time. Also, don’t put pressure on your child to come home every weekend. Remember you have raised them to be independent adults. College is that in-between time when they are still yours but learning to be independent.
6. SOCIALIZE WITH PARENTS IN THE SAME LIFE STAGE
When my first child left for college, I thought my world ended. It was a great benefit for me to socialize with other parents who had children leaving too. This not only gave us an opportunity to converse but we used our ‘meeting’ times to write notes and build care packages for our college kids.
Your heart may have just walked out the door, but remember to love your precious one unconditionally, pray continually and be available.