4 March 2010 09:53 AM

Preparing Yourself to Send Your Kid to College

by Dr. Rick

Someone asked me the other day how to get ready for a daughter’s going off to college in the fall.  Dad was sad.


Sending your child off to college really doesn't have to be an emotional roller coaster.  As a teacher of high school seniors for many years (and talking about this subject to innumerable parents), I've learned a few tips that can ease the way.  The secret -- as in so many other educational challenges -- is in preparation, state of mind, and connections.

  1. Learn as much as you can about the school.  Remember when you sent your child to middle school for the first time?  Remember how you took her to the school before the beginning of the school year so she could learn where everything was?  Now it's your time to do the same.  Get to know her new campus either by an actual visit or a virtual one.  Learn about the place where your child will live.  Routines, places, classroom buildings, labs, eating spots, sports venues.  The more you know, the more you'll feel a part of her life.  Buy a tee shirt and coffee mug from the school, so you'll feel connected at home.  Follow the sports teams, the drama productions, the music concerts, the academics, and other activities that are important to your child.  These are all connections.

  2. Communicate regularly.  But not too regularly.  Take your cue from your student.  Be open to communication, but generally let him initiate it.  This is a time for him to learn about independence, and he'll be experimenting with increased freedom.  He'll probably call more during his first weeks away, then he'll feel more confident.  It's okay for you to call from time to time, of course.  Have a set time for these calls -- that's best for all of you with your busy lives.  Remember, you're not losing him.  Instead, be proud for him that he's becoming independent.  Besides, he'll always need you, just in different ways.  Be there for him.  The connections continue.

  3. Pay attention.  During these calls, learn the names of the kids he mentions, the professors' names, the course titles, and other information he shares with you.  (And if you have to write them down because you'll forget them otherwise, do it.  I’m not ashamed of the increasing lists I carry around with me and rely on.  There are worse predicaments for a middle-aged brain to face.)  This way, when you're talking with him next week you can mention these important names naturally and conversationally.  More connections.

  4. Make it social.  Invite roommates, study buddies, friends, and classmates home for weekends or -- if practical -- for home cooked dinners or restaurant meals.  Get to know, without being obtrusive, the people your child hangs out with, studies with, plays soccer with.  Celebrate successes and milestones together.  Connections.

  5. Pay attention to your own feelings.  Of course you'll feel a loss when your child leaves for college.  Help prepare yourself for the inevitable by being involved from the earliest days.  Help yourself by helping her keep her high school grades up, by being involved in the college search, by being supportive, enthusiastic, and positive.  Besides, now you'll be able to indulge your long-postponed interests -- those books you've been meaning to read, that project you've been putting off, the hobby you've ignored for eighteen years.

If you’ve been through the sending-your-child-off-to-college crisis, how’d you fare?  Share your thoughts and successes and cautions with us here by clicking on Comments below.




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