The Less We Know The Better Off We Are (& Other Advice For Parents of College Kids)
One year ago I helped pack the car full of my daughter’s belongings and hauled her off to college. This momentous event in my life was one of the most difficult tasks I have had to endure since becoming a mother. For the first several weeks, I was a complete mess filled with sadness and grief having had to let her go. But over a few months I came out of the fog and got back on track with my own life. Before I knew it, it was spring, we celebrated her birthday followed by that glorious Friday afternoon when I met her dad and we happily lugged her stuff back down three flights of stairs and carted her back home.
A few weeks ago I delivered her back to the life that she loves filled with classes, friends and independence, but this time I wasn't a mess. I learned some very valuable lessons this past year; lessons that I believe will be helpful to parents who have just sent their children away to college. Allow me to share…
#1 Young adults need permission to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. Parents cannot fix their kids' problems forever. You cannot call the professor, provost or college administration when something goes wrong. Let them figure it out; you taught them to be responsible so let them.
#2 It is okay if they eat chicken nuggets for breakfast and Jell-O pudding for dinner. As long as they are eating they will be fine.
#3 College students go to parties. It is best not to ask specific questions about their social activities. Sometimes the less we know the better off we are. Of course, I am careful to remind my daughter to be safe and cautious; the rest I have to leave up to faith and trust.
#4 Just because the phone rings at 1:00 a.m. does not mean your child is in trouble or hurt. The first time my daughter called me that late I was terrified. It was then that I realized that college students forget that the entire world does keep the same hours that they do and even if you remind them that you were sleeping, they will call you that late again. Just be glad they called.
#5 Unanswered texts or phone calls is not a sign that they are angry with you or are in some kind of trouble. More than likely a text from their mother is not as important as cramming for their mid-term in Physics or studying in the library.
#6 College students love to get mail that does not involve bills. I try to send my daughter a card at least once every other week and while she doesn’t always acknowledge it, I know she appreciates it because I found a whole stack of them in a box she brought home.
#7 Don’t forget about the children you have left at home (if you have others). Focusing on the grief of having one leave the nest can and will leave the children you still have at home feel less important. Know that having a sibling leave is difficult for them as well. In our house it meant that our son became an only child, something he was not quite ready for.
#8 It is okay to have fun without your children. Live your life; enjoy your time whether it’s with your spouse, other children or just yourself. Life does not stop just because your child went to college. (This was difficult for me to learn.)
#9 Don’t comment on every single thing they post on Facebook. Allow them to have their own space and be thankful that they are okay with you being their social media friend.
#10 Even though they may not admit it, there will come a time when they realize that they do need you and that having you around is, in my daughter’s words “chill,”….I think that means it’s a good thing.