Going to college is a time full of new experiences and change for young people. Living away from home, managing finances, new friends – all this can be exciting but also stressful. That’s not even taking into account college work and navigating a new system of learning.
If your son or daughter is starting college, it’s natural for both you and them to feel a range of emotions, from happy and excited, to nervous and stressed.
It’s a good time to make sure lines of communication are open and strong, especially if your child is moving away from home to attend college.
Talk to them about how you feel and give them plenty of opportunity to talk to you.
They may not want to talk, which is fine, just let them know you’re there should they ever wish to talk. There are lots of changes associated with going to college and it’s OK to feel overwhelmed for the first few weeks.
Deciding on any rules should be done in advance of them starting college. For example, let them know how often you want to hear from them and why.
Think about the home-making skills they’ll need to rely on whilst in college, e.g. cooking, cleaning, laundry and managing finances.
It’s important they’re encouraged to consider these things before going to college as this could alleviate some of the stress they’re faced with. It might be an idea to provide them with opportunities to take responsibility for themselves around the house.
Parents should take a proactive role in assisting the decision of what college/course to choose. It’s a daunting task for anyone to undertake and any help could be useful.
While schools provide some guidance in relation to courses, additional support from parents can make a big difference. Here are some suggestions of how you can get involved:
It can take time settling in to a student lifestyle and it’s not unusual to feel homesick or lonely, especially at the beginning.
It’s good to regularly check-in with your son/daughter and be mindful of how they might be feeling. Give them a chance to get any concerns or worries off their chest.
Going to college is a change in lifestyle, but if you’re concerned about the health and well-being of your son or daughter, try not to ignore those concerns.
You can check what services are offered in their college by visiting the college website or by visiting pleasetalk.ie.
Starting college is a time of mixed feelings for parents as well as students. Many parents experience some degree of separation anxiety when the idea of their child leaving home becomes a reality.
However, there are ways you can help embrace change and nurture your relationship with your son/daughter during the college years.
Don’t wait until moving day to communicate your thoughts and feelings about them leaving. Sharing will help normalise the experience.
Your son/daughter may have been a super achiever in secondary school but may not get straight As in college. Your own expectations can continue to influence the expectations your son/daughter sets for themselves. Help them to stay motivated without pushing them too hard.
If problems arise during college years, listen carefully to what they have to say. Support them in exploring options and finding their own solutions, without taking it upon yourself to solve their problems for them. Now is the time to go from manager to mentor.
Making use of what’s available in college will go a long way to helping them address concerns and solve problems.
But don’t push them to follow a particular course of action or pressure them about their grades. You can be clear in expressing your opinions, but trying to impose them on your son/daughter is likely to create conflict rather than positive changes.
Your son/daughter likes knowing you care, but sometimes they experience resentment if they feel you’re intruding on their new-found independence. Express interest in their college life, ask them about their classes, activities and friends.
The college years can be a confusing and difficult time for parents. You may find yourself feeling sadness and loss about being separated from them. This is normal.
Talk with friends and relatives. Take good care of yourself, including doing things you enjoy and using healthy coping skills to manage stress. Also allow other family members space and time to get used to the new household arrangement.