It’s Freshmen Move-In Day on my campus. It’s probably move-in day on many campuses today or at least it’s the season for it. Dropping your freshmen off at college for the first time can be full of emotions. Both parents and students can be feeling anxiety, uncertainty, and excitement. These feelings are not uncommon.
Recently, on Facebook, I have seen posts from parents who are letting their children go. This is a big step for everyone. However, I hope it will not be a grief stricken process for parents. I have seen a couple of posts that parents (more so moms) have admitted to a sense of pain in this process. It’s ok to acknowledge that you will miss your wonderfully beautiful child. However, this should be a time for joy and celebration. Joy, happiness, and pride should outweigh grief. Think of all the hard work you have put into this moment. Think of the fact that you are having this moment (not everyone gets to have it). You are blessed! Your children are succeeding. Take a moment to focus on that.
I try to remind parents that they put their kids on the bus for kindergarten, and everyone survived. There may have been anxiety, uncertainty, and excitement then too, but you all did okay. Your children were prepared and ready to go because of the good work you had done in the first four years of their life. Perhaps some of these same children participated in sleep-away camp. You dropped them off and came back a week later. They were fine. Maybe stinky and dirty, but fine. Do you remember the excitement in their voice as they told you of their experience? Now, I know your 18-year-old will not return at lunch time or even around 3 pm. Most will not come home after the first week. Many of you may say to me, “Yes, but that was only for a morning or that was just for one week.” At the time, it seemed bigger then. In addition, you would never drop a five-year-old off for college. Why? Because they are not developmentally ready. However, most 18-year-olds are developmentally ready for university life. Your child is probably one of them. Most of them will soon be telling you, with excitement, all of the new people and things they are meeting and doing. And, I am confident that you have given them all the tools they need to do their best.
Orientation teams across the US work hard to keep kids busy those first few days for a smooth transition. Higher Education professionals do their best to help students make the transition from high school to college. It is a big step, but we’ve got it! In fact, many schools have programs specifically for freshmen during their first semester or the entire year, to encourage college success. If you think your student isn’t thriving after the first month or so, talk to them. Campuses are full of resources. Point out opportunities for them to get involved or where they can go for help.
Parents, being dropped off at college is not the same as when you were 18. Students are much more connected with their parents than they were 30 years ago. Make a plan to touch base regularly. Allow your child to decide the frequency and make the initial contact. Technology has made regular communication easier. Text messages, free phone calls, Skype, Face Time, Snap Chat, Instagram, and Facebook all make this more possible. Take advantage of them. This will help you adjust too. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how often you talk or hear from your child.
So, when you give your child the nudge to fly, don’t do so with tears of sadness, but tears of joy. Be confident in the person you have created. Make your good-bye light and quick. Help them unpack, make their bed (Mom, that’s for you), give them a big hug filled with pride and love, take a deep breath, and say, “Talk to you soon.” Then leave; don’t linger. I promise you it’s easier on both of you this way.