When a child goes off to college, the parents must make some adjustments. While possibly anticipating their own “empty-nest” feelings, they also need to learn how to support their sons and daughters. Everyone involved may be under stress, which can be reduced in a number of ways.
Research Potential Schools
When a student becomes a junior in high school, it is time to begin considering which college or university to attend. The first step is identifying the field of study the teenager plans to pursue, and any special needs he or she may have, which will rule out some institutions.
Other considerations include the size and location of colleges, their tuition rates and other fees, admission requirements, student housing, extracurricular activities and policies. Such information may be obtained by researching websites that rank colleges in various categories. Colleges have their own sites, as well.
Apply for Admission
When the list of possible schools is narrowed to a few, admission applications must be prepared and campus visits scheduled. Schools offer advisers to help in this process. The deadline to submit the paperwork is typically Jan. 1, though some institutions require applications the previous fall.
Colleges also want copies of a student’s high school transcripts, essays and other records. It may take time to compile this information, so requests for it should happen long before the application deadlines.
Leaving home and going to college is a thrilling stage of life. However, young scholars and their parents also experience uncertainty and anxiety.
Those who cope with the situation successfully do not hide their feelings. It is important for a family to have frank conversations about what is in store for them. Mom and Dad need to understand that their child is likely to fluctuate between excitement and dread during this period.
Prepare for Challenges
Students must learn how to take care of themselves when their parents are not around. In addition to having to study harder than in high school and make new friends, they have to handle money responsibly, shop for groceries, cook, do their own laundry and clean their dorm rooms. Parents need to make sure their children know how to do these things.
Family members also should discuss the classes that a student plans to take, setting attainable goals. Many people struggle academically at first, due to the multiple adjustments and distractions they face. Experts recommend parental patience.
One of the pitfalls of college life is that young people tend to choose food laden with fat, salt and sugar. Bad eating habits may lead to mental and physical problems that impede a student’s ability to learn. Parents also should talk to their kids about alcohol, other drugs and sex.
Be Supportive Without Clinging
Accepting the fact that a child is turning into an adult can be difficult. Parents must find a balance between being there for the student and letting go.
Having frequent conversations is vital. Experts advise asking questions like “how are your classes going?” and “are you having fun?” Parents should encourage their children to open up about their feelings, and allow them to do most of the talking.
College life can overwhelm a young person. Academic and social pressures may mount to the point that a student becomes emotionally unhinged. Parents need to be good listeners who provide calm reassurance. Teens benefit from suggestions of how to deal with problems by breaking them down into easy, logical steps.
It is important for parents to let students come to them, instead of constantly calling or texting with probing questions. Occasional college visits can be helpful, though surprise visits are not a good idea. Sending unexpected cash and other gifts is an effective way to support a child in college. A package should include a letter or note of encouragement.