Advice for Parents of Incoming Freshmen

My son (AKA College Guy) and I have now survived three years of moving into and two years of moving out of a dorm. Thus, I feel qualified to offer some tips for parents whose sons or daughters are just beginning their university experience. Without further ado, here goes:

  1. Expect delays. Universities have been holding freshman move-in days forever, yet invariably there are glitches. Go figure. Somebody important doesn’t show up with the keys; the dorm room (or bathroom) isn’t cleaned; paperwork has been delayed. Keep cool; this too shall pass. And why, when they had months of favorable weather before, city and state road crews choose August for their major construction projects, I’ll never know!
  2. Be open to the experience. Maybe you went to college; maybe not. If you did, you don’t need to tell everybody every detail of it; if you didn’t, you don’t need to apologize. You’re there to help your new freshman physically move their “stuff” into the dorm, not to wax eloquent on your past. If the college offers parents’ orientation, go; you’ll learn a lot and meet other parents.
  3. Dust off your sense of humor. It can be quite funny to watch other parents and kids pull mound after mound of things from their vehicles, then try to wrestle it upstairs, down hallways, and into rooms. Don’t get into a snide-remark, snippy-attitude, screaming match with your kid while doing this. You don’t want their first semester away from home clouded by ill feelings.
  4. Leave them a bit of home. Homemade cookies are good. So are a book of stamps and stationery and a prepaid cell phone — you can’t expect them to pay to stay in touch! And if you don’t already know how, learn to text, video chat, and e-mail — at least.
  5. Congratulate yourself — To yourself. Hey, you done good! You’ve succeeded in rearing a son or daughter that a university wants and believes will succeed. This is one of their first steps toward real independence, toward adulthood. All your sacrifices and life lessons and nurturing haven’t been for naught!
  6. Expect to miss them. Even if this isn’t your first time moving an incoming freshman, you’re going to be surprised at how much you miss this child. You’ll remember little things — the way they square their shoulders as you leave, the tears they choke back when they hug you, the catch in your throat. You’ll see the little girl who didn’t want you to leave her at preschool, the little boy who skinned his knee sliding into second base. You’ll compare this to First Day of School. And it will be similar. Only this time, they might not turn to you for help and comfort; they’ll bravely try to handle it alone. Remind them you’re there, but don’t hover.
  7. Repeat — Don’t hover. Your child is no longer a baby. He/she is a young adult. Back off on micromanaging their life. Let them choose their room decor’; let them choose their course of study. If asked, you can certainly offer advice, but remember it’s their choice.
  8. Expect changes. For many young people, Thanksgiving is the first time they’ll be back home for a few days after the semester starts. They’ll have adjusted to a different schedule than the one they had while at home. The boy who refused to eat veggies might have become a vegetarian; the girl who sprang from bed for an early morning jog might not arise until noon. They’ve got to “try on” their new persona and as long as it’s not unhealthy or too disruptive, let them.
  9. Pray. Face it, there are plenty of things you can’t control. Put your youngster in God’s Hands and trust Him to care for them with tenderness and love.
  10. Fill your days with something meaningful. You’ll have more time on your hands, now that your child is in college. You don’t have to play taxi; you won’t have as much laundry or meal-preparation or noise. That can be lonely, unless you fill the hours with things you want to do — take up a new hobby or exercise class, finish college yourself or start a business, volunteer or concentrate on your own career.