Each and every year, millions of young adults set off for the start of their college adventures, finally leaving the family home behind and getting ready to take the next steps towards their future lives. It can be an exciting time for everyone involved, as well as a stressful one for many protective parents as their grown-up children leave the nest.
Having a college-aged child is very different from having a little one or a high school teen. It's at this stage of life that young men and women begin to become much more independent, making more of their own decisions and taking more personal choices that will shape their future in various ways.
However, that doesn't mean that mom and dad no longer have a part to play. Parents of college kids simply have to adapt to changing circumstances, but can still help their children in various ways and will surely be called upon in several key situations. With this in mind, let's take a look at some top tips for parents of college kids to bear in mind.
Educate, But Don't Patronize
It's natural for parents to be worried or stressed as their older children leave the home and head off to college, especially with so many stories and reports of college parties and all the possible things that can go wrong. In reality, college campuses are relatively safe places and most students have the best years of their life at college.
However, there are still some risks out there, and it's important for parents to guide and educate their older children into making the right decisions, without being too 'parental' or patronizing. Remind your kids of the importance of keeping up with studies and meeting deadlines while still feeling free to have fun. Talk about the importance of acting responsibly, understanding the age of consent, not drinking excessively, and so on, while appreciating their individuality and maturity.
Parents can be nervous about their kids starting college, and there are many situations where the kids themselves are equally stressed out. They might be worried about fitting in, keeping up with their courses, making the right decisions, and so on. This is your time to encourage them, to let them know that the next years could be some of the best they ever have, to let them know that they've earned their place and will be successful.
Speak positively about your son or daughter's college education, encourage them to be confident, and approach this next step of their life with self-belief. Invite them to be independent, to pursue their passions, to meet new people, to participate in extracurricular activities, and so on. The more involved they get, the better the experience could turn out to be.
Try To Limit Your Role
As stated earlier on, this is the time in a young person's life when they'll typically start to become more independent, learning about living on their own, discovering new skills, and developing the abilities they need to look after themselves and forge their own path. This doesn't mean they won't still need your help, but if they do, they'll usually ask for it.
In the meantime, parents should try to limit their roles, letting their kids live and enjoy their college years, while still being present and ready to help out as and when they are needed. You shouldn't be the one choosing your child's courses, giving them constant unsolicited advice, or calling them non-stop. Again, you can still keep in touch, but be ready for things to change a little, which leads us to the final tip below.
As mentioned above, things will usually change quite a lot when a kid goes off to college. After just a few months or semesters, they might change in some big ways too, learning more about themselves, discovering new aspects of their personality, or uncovering new interests they hadn't had a chance to pursue in the past.
Be ready for this, accept that things are going to change, know that the child you raised for 18 years is starting to become an adult, and do what you can to embrace those changes in the best possible way. Ultimately, it's all about trusting your child, and yourself. You've raised them all their life, preparing them for the challenges that lie ahead and effectively helping them get to where they are.
Now, it's up to them to start forging their own road in life, and if you choose to embrace it and approach it with a positive mindset, you may have a lot of fun watching the people they become.