Monday, May 25, 2015

What to Expect when Your Kid goes off to College



Today, you're all smiles. In a couple months, you may be all in tears. It seems that more and more of our family and friends' kids are choosing to attend college out of town.  These are my words of wisdom to those parents on what to expect when you drop them off to the dorm and live through those college years.

1) Your kid didn't get into college because of mediocre grades, a laissez-faire dedication to community service and scarce activities.  They had someone at home to push them, support them, and guide them - YOU!  They've been making the right decisions. Your kid turned out great!  And guess what? They still need you! A lot of parental anxiety may come from that feeling of helplessness since you won't be nearby to protect and care for them. Some things you may need to do with them before they leave for college: open a checking account, get them an emergency credit card, teach them how to cook basic meals, do the  laundry, although, they should know how by now right? When you tour the campus with them, make sure they know where the student health building is, where the campus police station is, where to find the number for a campus escort to walk them home at night.  Give them their health insurance card and circle the phone number to call.  Let them know that you trust them and that you're only a phone call away.

2) You may wonder if your kid misses you.  They miss you just as much as you miss them, believe it! Set up a standing phone/text/video call time! Whether it's a call to say "How was your day?" or a  "Good night Mom!" text, this will give you some assurance that they're thinking of you and are okay. As time goes on and both you and your kid acclimate, these communications may get longer and longer in between. Don't fret, it's normal!

3) Do things just because. Send your kid a care package! Its fun to go out and put stuff in a box, especially around the holidays. They'll appreciate that you got them their favorite snacks, maybe even baked some goods, money is always welcome and a letter from Mom and Dad is a forever keepsake.

4) Give yourself some peace of mind and make an emergency kit for them:  first aid kit, flashlight, multi-purpose tool, some cash, bottles of water, and protein bars.  My husband gave my daughters a mini flashlight for their keys. One of their aunts, gave each a can of mace too. Don't make it too big as space can be very limited in the dorm.

5) Your kid may think they still need to get straight A's in college. Let them know that you're always proud of them, but in reality, grades no longer matter. Of course you don't want them to get on academic probation or anything, but once they're in college, the focus transitions to getting the degree.  I no longer make a big issue of grades. Just finish is what I want them to do. My middle child hates talking about school.  Then again, she's my quiet one. She tells me that "It's hard." Well, yeah, you're among the cream of the crop,elite group of kids in the nation. Just stay disciplined, stick it out and finish.

6) Your kid in college is a life changer for both of you and the years go by fast.  Your house will be quiet and you may not know what to do with the free time on your hands. Take advantage and  pursue activities that you've been wanting to try as well.  Both of you can join new clubs and organizations!

7) When your kid comes home, they'll be different. You may feel sad about it, but you'll get used to it. They're just growing up.  Mine really like to sleep, I think they love the comfort of their own room and their bed. Sometimes I have to wake them up before they sleep the whole day away! My husband likes to prepare their favorite food and they always want Carne Asada Fries!! Nothing compares to San Diego Mexican food, I guess! I've learned not to pounce on them the second they come home to pepper them with twenty questions.  So, how are your classes, what's your favorite one. How are your roommates?  Are  you dating? What do you want for dinner?   They glare at me, don't answer anything, and go to their rooms.  I get annoyed and frustrated. My husband gently gives me a look to leave them alone as he starts the large pile of laundry that is a regular part of home visits. I sigh. By now, with my oldest one graduating next month, I've come to realize, they just want to BE home. So, I gather my patience and  let them sleep. The inquisition can wait. I'll interview them when they're eating the sock it to me cake late at night or their lox and bagels in the morning or get ready for this, ...over a glass of wine from a bottle that they've brought home!

8)  The last words of wisdom I have for parents is to realize that goodbyes don't get easier. Yes, you're going to be super excited the first time they come home. The house will be alive and noisy again, life is back the way it used to be.  But when long weekends and vacation time come to an end, you'll relive the packing, the worrying,  the sadness, etc.. That feeling of your heart breaking when you drop them off to the airport, train, or wave goodbye from your driveway will never completely go away.  'Tis the life and privilege of being a parent.

I hope this helps parents of kids going off to college in some way!  Is there an expectation that I didn't include? Please leave a comment below!


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