Sending a child off to college is an exciting and stressful time for both parents and the student. This is probably the first time your son or daughter will have true autonomy and the first time you, as a parent, won't know what time he or she gets up in the morning, returns home at night, or even goes to class. While most teens will show you excitement at the prospect of living away from home with no rules, their stomachs are more than likely flipping and flopping and their hearts race at the uncertainty. What advice can you give your student to make their first year of college successful and fun?1. Talk about the challenges. Surviving the first year of college can be a daunting prospect. Make a special effort to sit with your son or daughter and openly discuss issues they will face. It will be so much easier for her if she knows what to expect and has guidance already in place to get her over common hurdles. Is it hard for your student to get out of bed in the morning? Is she a night owl who stays awake until all hours reading or playing video games? Discuss techniques to keep her on track, such as setting more than one alarm or scheduling classes later in the morning.
2. Set clear expectations. If your son was required to meet certain academic goals to earn gas money or to participate in sports, decide before he's on campus if those rules are still in effect. Should he come home every other weekend or stay on campus through the first month? Do you expect a Sunday night check-in phone call or Skype session? Will he still have the same curfew when he's at home that was established before college? Discuss and decide together what expectations are reasonable and the consequences for disregarding them.3. Encourage openness. Frequently, students arrive on campus and a new world opens to them. Suddenly, there are no curfews, no one is calling you if they don't get to class, and there are many new experiences available. With this freedom comes exposure to drugs and alcohol and sexual situations that your son or daughter may not have previously encountered. Let your student know he or she can come to you with questions, concerns or simple curiosity. An open line of dialogue can ease your mind about what your child is doing away from home and can help influence your son or daughter to make the right choices. Safety should always be their first priority.
College can be a great chance for your child to grow in knowledge, both academic and practical. He will learn to compromise with roommates, manage his time properly, take responsibility for his actions, and navigate the world as an independent adult. If you are nervous about sending him off on his own, know that he's nervous, too. He just won't show it. You can still offer guidance to your student by being proactive and giving him the tools needed for successfully surviving the first year of college.