Watching your kids go to college can be a heartbreaking experience. For the first time in their lives, they won’t be living at home. This is a stressful time for the whole family – including your new freshman, who’s probably just as scared as you are. As a parent, what can you do to make the experience easier for you and your child?
Budget Big and Budget Early
Before your student even leaves the house you should discuss a financial plan. You need to account for any scholarships they’ve earned and any college savings accounts, as well as what you plan to pay on a per-semester basis. Expenses can be complicated, but you should plan for tuition, room and board, food, transportation, and a little extra at the very least.
Most importantly, you should talk to your student about budget expectations. Do you expect them to find part-time work? Will they be on their own for spending money? What expectations do you have for their budget? Lay these out ahead of time so that everyone is on the same page from day one.
Communication Is Key
Keeping in touch with your new freshman is important, no matter how much they say they aren’t homesick. Transitioning into college is a rocky road, even at the best of times. While this doesn’t mean to call them every day, planning at least one big weekly update can go a long way toward getting used to the new state of affairs. Sending care packages is another great way for you to stay involved with your child’s life and gives them a taste of home. Whether they admit it or not, homesickness plagues every college student at some point. These gestures can help remind your student of home when they need it most.
That said, it’s important to appreciate your child’s independence. You may see them as your baby, but they’re learning to live an adult life now. They may not be ready to put a down payment on a home or settle down with a family just yet, but it’s important to let them live their own lives, on their own terms. No matter how loving your family may be, college is where young adults come into their own, flourishing into their unique identities. Establish boundaries with them so you know where to draw the line.
Be a Friend
As a parent, it can be hard coming to terms with your relationship to your student. This is a reality of growing up, whether your child goes to college or not. One of the best things you can do for your child is to back off as a parent and come back more as a friend. You’re still their parents, of course, but college is about independence. If you approach your child as an equal partner in your relationship, they’ll appreciate your trust and be more willing to listen to your thoughts.
Every family has a different dynamic, but parents of any college student need to work with their child to make their experience a good one and come to terms with this major life transition.