For so many years, your child needed you for everything. You fed him, clothed him and held his hand through every scary experience. Now you are facing a new scary experience–college–and he no longer needs you to hold his hand. With proper preparation, you can ensure he becomes the successful, happy adult you raised him to be.
Well In Advance
Years before college, start talking about college. Even in elementary school, you can ask your child what he would like to do as a career and can explain the schooling he will need for that. Take him to your alma mater or local universities to see what the campuses look like. As your child enters high school, talk with his guidance counselor about the classes he needs to meet the requirements of his preferred schools. Encourage him to keep his grades up to meet the requirements.
As He Prepares
As he starts thinking about which college he prefers, during the middle years of high school, go on college tours and arrange meetings with professors, alumni and students, as you have the opportunity. Let your child ask questions about classes, careers and experiences. Help him fill out the applications for colleges, housing, financial aid and health insurance, but don’t do the work for him. Make yourself and your files an available resource, but give him room to take responsibility for himself.
The Big Move
Head to the store and pick up all those last-minute toiletries, linens and other items. Attend any orientations the college offers. Get to know the campus, other parents and the faculty, as you have opportunity. Take advantage of all the networking and self-educating workshops you can to really start to feel comfortable with your child’s new home. Meet your child’s roommate, and his parents or other family if available, so you can put a face to the name you will hear so much about. Help your child get all his things moved in, stay as long as he feels comfortable and leave when he is ready. Don’t hang around once he feels ready to start feeling out his new environment.
Let your child know that you are available to talk, but don’t crowd him. Set up a time once or twice a week to chat. Send emails or old-fashioned letters when you want him to know how much you love and miss him. Keep your communication positive and useful. Send care packages with his favorite snacks and little treats from home. Go to parents’ weekends and other formal events to reconnect with your child and see how he is doing. When he comes home, treat him like the self-sufficient adult he has become.