Seeing a child leave for college can be one of the proudest, but also most upsetting, experiences a parent ever goes through. Friends and family will bombard you with the usual cliches: “you have to let them go”, “they need to make their own mistakes”, “they have their own life to lead”, and so on. No matter how true such comments may be, they rarely comfort or console; knowing you have thoroughly prepared them will.
1) Make it clear to them that they are loved and have a home to return to, no matter what happens. Leaving for college can be a scary experience, and it often takes students time to settle. Be sure they know that, should things go wrong, there is always a place for them back home. Many couples, who remained together only for the children, divorce and sell the family home once the children have left. But your child may feel the safety net has suddenly been pulled away. At least wait until you know they are settled and happy.
2) Talk to them about the dangers of college life. Many children are raised in privileged, sheltered homes and know little of the real world. If you have a daughter, for example, do not shy away from the dark side of college life. Is she aware that someone could slip a drug into her drink when she goes clubbing? In spite of social media, young people can be surprisingly naive. Warn her that some men target girls who are drunk and alone.
3) Warn them about mental illness. Many college students suffer from depression and anxiety; hopefully, your child will not be one of them, but try to reassure them that it is perfectly natural to experience sadness, homesickness, exam worries, and so on. Far too many college students feel pressured to enjoy themselves, with everyone assuring them that these will be the best years of their life. But not all 18-year-olds are the same. For some, it really is the best time of their life, while others hate their college years and prefer their 20s, 30s, or 40s.
4) Don’t pressurize them to get good results. You may feel that since you have spent so much money on their education, you are entitled to expect good results. But most children do not respond well to that kind of pressure. If you suspect they have no intention of working and are just going to drink, have fun, and avoid getting a job, maybe you should discourage them. If you know they are enthusiastic about the subject and have worked hard to get there, leave them alone – they will work!
5) Warn them that not every professor is inspiring and not every student is keen. Many students set off for college with dreams of all night discussions about Elizabethan poetry and Pre-Raphaelite paintings. They may anticipate a world of exciting ideas and intellectual stimulation but instead find lazy, uninspiring professors and drunken, immature students. Hopefully, this will not be the case of course, but they should be prepared.
6) Don’t become too emotional when you say goodbye. Finally, don’t send them off upset. No matter how emotional you may be feeling, you must try and hide it. The last thing your child needs is to feel that you are back home sad and upset. So don’t cry. Be cheerful and upbeat instead. Parents often make a big deal of leaving day, throwing a party, or taking their child out for a family meal. Of course, you know your child best; they may love this. But many would prefer it if you did not make a fuss.
Preparing your child will not only enable them to cope better, it will give you a sense of peace and comfort. And the tips offered here are a good place to start.