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Remember that your son or daughter's transition to college is a transition for you as well.
The transition to college can be a stressful experience for parents, especially if your son or daughter hasn't lived away from home before. During this important time of transition for the family, many parents put their own feelings and reactions "on hold" while helping their child prepare for university life. However, attending to your own emotional needs will go a long way toward helping everyone feel comfortable with the challenges that college presents.
Recognize that feelings of ambivalence, anxiety, and excitement about your child's leaving home are normal.
You may feel a variety of emotions as your son or daughter prepares to leave for home for the first time. While ambivalence and anxiety are common during this period of transition, it is also normal to look forward to the relative peace and quiet of having your active older adolescent out of the house. You may be excited to have the place to yourself, or to have more time to spend with your spouse and/or younger children.
Remember that coming to the college is a tremendously important developmental step toward full adulthood.
It represents the culmination of 18 years or so of learning, much of which has been geared toward assuming a productive place in the world. This is the time when your hard work as a parent will show itself as your son or daughter begins to make independent choices. Many parents find that it helps to focus on the fact that providing their son or daughter with this opportunity is a priceless gift. Be proud of yourself!
What Can I Do to Help My Child from a Distance?
Of course, you are still a parent to your son or daughter, and s/he still needs your support and guidance during the college years. Here are some ways you can express your caring and enhance his or her experience at Brockport.
Stay in touch.
Even though your son or daughter is experimenting with independent choices, s/he still needs to know that you're there and available to discuss both normal events and difficult issues. Make arrangements to write, email, or call on a regular basis. It may be helpful to have a conversation about how often s/he would like you to check-in.
Allow your son or daughter to set the agenda for some of your conversations.
If he or she needs help or support, the subject is more likely to come up if you aren't asking pointedly about what time he or she came in last night!
Be realistic about financial matters.
Students should come to school with a fairly detailed plan about who will pay for tuition, fees, books, and room and board, and what the family's expectations are about spending money. Being specific at the outset may help avoid misunderstandings later. Don't forget about the costs of social activities, which are an important part of the college experience.
Be realistic about academic achievement and grades.
Brockport attracts bright students from a geographically diverse area, and not every student who excelled academically in high school will be a straight-A student at Brockport. Developing or refining the capacity to work independently and consistently, and to demonstrate mastery, can be as important as grades, as long as the student meets the basic academic requirements set out by the college. Again, these are choices that each individual student makes, though certainly it is appropriate to help your child set his or her own long-term goals.
If your son or daughter has trouble at Brockport, encourage him or her to take advantage of the resources available to students.
For academic issues, talking with the professor, teaching assistant or academic advisor is probably the first step, but the Student Learning Center and Career Services Center are also available to help. Any health concerns should be directed to the Student Health Center. If your son or daughter could benefit from counseling, the Counseling Center is located on campus in Hazen Hall and can be accessed by telephone: 1-585-395-2414 (M-F, 8AM-5PM). Negotiating the social, academic, and bureaucratic mazes of Brockport, can seem very daunting at times; but you can help your son or daughter by reminding him or her of the many resources available here.
Allow yourself to have emotions.
There is little benefit in pretending that you don't feel sad, guilty, relieved, apprehensive, worried, etc. about the transition to Brockport. A healthier approach is to discuss your feelings with your family, friends, clergy, or whoever is a source of support for you. Talking with other parents of college-bound students can be particularly helpful.
Make "overall wellness" a goal for yourself.
During stressful times, it helps to get enough sleep, eat healthy meals regularly, and get adequate exercise. Spending time doing the things you like is another step toward wellness. If you are feeling good, you are more likely to have the energy to be a good role model your son daughter in terms of maintaining their overall physical and mental health.
Find a new creative outlet for yourself.
Many parents find that taking on a new challenge is an excellent way to manage and channel their energy and feelings. Have you ever wanted to travel? Volunteer in your community? Assume a new project or responsibility at work? Write a book? Learn to fly-fish? Make a quilt? Get your own bicycle and ride all over town? Make a list of all the things you intended to do while your child was growing up but never had the time to do. Now is your chance!
Be patient with the transition.
It is important to recognize that it will take some time to develop the right balance between your son or daughter's developing need for independence and their simultaneous need for support and guidance. Every student is different in this regard and has different needs, and these needs will almost certainly change over time. In addition, students don't always know how much independence they can handle or how much support they will actually need. So, be patient, and understand that it will likely take some time for everyone to figure this out.
Be ready for the first trip home.
It is important to remember that your kids have been making their own decisions for several weeks and are not accustomed to checking in with mom and dad. It is not unusual for parents and students to have difficulties with the transition back home. At this point, you may be ready to pack the student back to school or find yourself a nice hotel room, resist the urge! Possible solutions to this scenario include:
- Addressing boundaries before your students arrive home.
- Develop a balance between the “the old rules” and new expectations the students bring home. After all, they have survived without your watchful monitoring, but you do deserve some degree of consideration.
- Remember that this is a “normal” developmental stage for both you and your student, so try not to make it a war. Both of you will lose.
*This information was adapted from resources gathered from the University of Texas Counseling Center web site.Other resources are available there as well. …and when in doubt, call the Counseling Center at (585) 395-2414 or consult the "On Campus Links" section of our web site for a list of relevant on campus offices. We are here to help!