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.
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12 thoughts on “Advice for Parents of Incoming Freshmen

  1. great words of wisdom, Deb—I still remember our Grandpa with tears in his eyes when we would drive away. it never gets any easier as they are a PART of us—roots and wings—but wings that don’t fly to far!! love you–S

    • Thanks, sis! Yes, we raise them to soar, but it’s never easy letting go. We can only hope their roots are deep enough that they’ll always stay close — in heart, at least!

  2. Oh my gosh, Deb. You took me right back to my own parting with my daughter-that bittersweet time of hanging on and letting go. Sure wish I had these juicy tidbits to guide me in the process. You speak to every emotion encountered and offer wonderful advice, especially “dust off your sense of humor” I can still see my Dad packing that car and carrying those boxes up all those stairs-again and again. And my favorite “pray and put your youngster in God’s hands.” Right on!

    • I’m glad you agree with my tips, Kathy. We’ve both been on the receiving end of parental help as well as the giving end — I don’t know which is harder, ha! ‘Bittersweet’ sums it right up, though!

  3. Saving your tips for a few years forward but I think the process can begin at any time…especially the part about thinking about “what’s next.” I was very lucky to have a parents that had full lives before and after I left home. I was part of their world but it never revolved around me.

    • They sound wise indeed. Back in olden times, children were “seen but not heard.” I wouldn’t want to go back to that, but there’s gotta be a middle ground between that and all this MeMeMe stuff!

  4. Great advice! I’ve said goodbye to one child as he’s gone off to college for five years now! (Hope he’ll be done after this one!) But that doesn’t stop me from feeling sad about sending my youngest off for her first time. I know I’m going to miss her like crazy. I know it’s going to be too quiet around here. I definitely needed the reminder to make some plans for “me” things. Thank you!

    • Glad I could be of help, Terri — though you’re probably more of a pro than I am, having had one gone for five years! Yes, I’m sure you’ll miss her. From what I understand, girls can sometimes be closer to their moms (and needier of them!) than boys, so prepare to fill that empty hole now!

  5. I like the advice about expecting change. I’ve noticed that young adults struggle when their parents have changed too much around the house. As they change they expect everything to stay the same. It’s not wrong to make changes, just expect for them to struggle with it.

    • Interesting point. I was thinking of the parents expecting their kids to have changed and grown, particularly that first semester. I wasn’t thinking of it from the kids’ view, but I guess you have a point — nobody wants to come home for Christmas holidays and find their room turned into a sewing center! Thanks for visiting.

  6. Great tips! I’m glad I’m not at this stage yet, because I’m not ready :) I never stayed in a dorm during college, so your tips for parents and kids are both new to me. I hope I remember all of this when the time comes.

    I really like #10. I think that’s a good idea to do even now. I like ‘me’ time!”

    • ‘Me’ time is good, especially for writers! We just have to have time and space in which to dream and create. By the time your sons go to college, somebody will probably have devised all kinds of helpful advice for parents and kids to survive this big step!

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