It’s that time of year where students begin to prepare for back to school. The most stressful of back to school is back to college. For many this is their first time away from home. Parents and student start to feel it. College is some of the best years you will ever experience but there are a few things you should keep in mind. We will switch back and forth for both the parent as well as the new college student…
I looped both topics together. It’s one of the first fears that parents have. Your child may be ready to cut the strings but you aren’t. You want to still treat them like the baby that you see them as. There is an issue, your baby is budding into an adult. They aren’t grown yet but they are adults. Let me help you define grown. Grown is when you can support yourself and ALL decisions made. Many college students define grown as 18 and ready to roll. Parents take a deep breath. Your emotions are about to do many different things. One day you are crying about it and the next day you may be planning what to do with the newly minted space left behind. It’s okay. Your child is doing the same types of emotional roller coaster. If your child is someone who has NEVER been out of your presence, you are going to have a tougher time. You are going to have to find that fine line between parent and friend. I know if you are a parent like mine were, friendships don’t start until your child can pay bills, but in college they are going to need unconditional love and support.
Parents you are going to have to develop real open and honest non judgemental communication. Take it from someone who did any and everything the lies get greater if you don’t. Your child will hide more from you just to spare themselves the nagging. If you want them to be able to tell you things you have to start now by trying to get in a place where you can receive even the worst of news calmly. It doesn’t mean that parent part of you won’t be disappointed because you will. I was a good kid. Never got into any trouble but the minute my feet touched campus, the doors of foolishness were open. I lied to cover up things from my parents in more ways than one. I didn’t feel like I could say hey this is what is going on without thinking I would lose their respect. Your child knows you won’t like what they do, they are prepared but to lose a parent’s respect is major.
Even if you didn’t attend college yourself you know what’s waiting for your child. Keeping the doors open allows you to cover them in ways you can’t even imagine. You will forge a better relationship with them because you know what’s going on. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries. You don’t need all of the details but being able to have them open up to you is key. Oh and the picture you allowed them to see of you where you were perfect and angelic won’t work. You need to open up about the things you have been through too. Keep those things in the back of your mind too they may be helpful in guiding your child to the right direction even if you can’t make them do what you want them to do.
If you can, send them often. I don’t care what your child says, everyone loves to get little reminders of home. Kids no matter their size get home sick. They are ready to take on the world but they still need your love. What’s more loving than a care package? It could be things that they need as well as little things they can’t get on campus. If your child is going to a college or university that isn’t as diverse, hair products can sometimes be key. If you don’t want or can’t afford care packages, send a card. Send one, twice a month. The smiles and encouragement that a .99 card can bring will do wonders. The purpose of care packages is just little reminders that they are loved. There are many who will never get them. They will long for them trust me.
I got my first cell phone in college. I didn’t have one before then. In these days and times, text messages are golden. Have a conversation with your child, a code or something you make up that they can let you know they are alive and well. Your child may not be able to answer every call. They should be in school or enjoying their new life. Communication may be cut but it doesn’t have to be non-existent. Express some form of communication does need to be had. No way your child can go off to school and just do them without getting back to you.
This is the part about parenting that ALL parents cringe. Yes your child may go to parties. They don’t all have to drink. I didn’t start until my junior year. No I wasn’t 21 then but that’s when I started. I actually just enjoyed the parties for dancing and meeting new people. My freshman year I didn’t miss one. I had a ball and a half. I traveled. I enjoyed my life. I had to figure out balance. Some days were better than others. The key to getting out and having fun is not let it affect your grades or any scholarship requirements. Yes trust and believe that academic probation is real. I was fortunate not to have to go throguh that but not everyone around me was as fortunate. As quickly as they can give scholarships, they can easily snatch it away too. If you are a new college student there’s not enough tears you can give that will stop them from taking your money back. Be careful. Be responsible. This is the time in your life where no one is going to be over top of you to make sure you are where you are supposed to be. That means if you fail it will because you choose that life.
Also be aware of your surroundings. Use discernment. Everyone that is in your face don’t always mean you well. Understand that concept now to avoid the pitfalls that being on a campus can bring. It’s a great time but it also has a lot of drama too. If you are on a small or large campus it doesn’t matter. Campus issues are bound to happen. This is the time where you go from being a child to being an adult. You will learn about yourself in ways you can’t begin to imagine.
I met my husband practically day one and we had been inseparable since then. HOWEVER let me keep it real. As much as I am grateful for that chance encounter, I love him but I would have done things differently. Yes hold your pearls I am serious. I had dated him almost my entire college career. So not dating others or casually dating didn’t really happen. I think every young person deserves to be young and free and not tied down. I didn’t know who I was and what I wanted. I’m not saying sleep with everyone, I said date. Go out on activities , grab a bite to eat (college will be broke times a meal is a God send), enjoy another person’s company. Do not attempt to lock down a person freshman year without experiencing life. You should be traveling. I was a home body. My first year I just went home never even knowing about Spring break trips, or girls trips, etc. I didn’t start that until Sophomore year. These are the times when you forge great friendships. Had my husband and I not married we would still be friends. Yes we met 2 other amazing friends that first week and that branched into a life time friendship and we added other Penn Staters along the way. I still call them often. I still take trips with them. The point is have some fun. Enjoy being young. There are many handsome men and beautiful women all around the world. You have no idea where your life will lead you. Take your time.
Another component of dating is date rape. Yes this is when you go out with a person and you have already spent time together. You talk on the phone for hours at a time. You feel you practically know them, but then you are out and it gets to that point of parting ways. You are thinking should you kiss them or not and then the unthinkable happens, you are raped. This is real. This is happening on every campus. Women are afraid to talk because they won’t be believed. They deserved this. They should have known better. We as a culture have to dispel these things. Speak up. If this happens, get help. Don’t hide it, there’s no shame in what another person stole from you. I used to tell people around me all the time, for all the girls that do give it up on campus, there’s not one need to take anything from anyone-period. Men if you are reading this you have a responsibility to have these talks with your sons and other male family and friends. We can’t continue to have rape culture around. I don’t subscribe to it in any form. Let’s take responsibility so that your daughter, cousin, niece, etc doesn’t have to endure this embarrassing, hurtful experience.
So you are on campus to learn. You should know all of your advisors. You should know where the student centers are. You should know where help is. I would applaud you to take a real trip on your campus and introduce yourself to the key players. In college it’s not just you taking courses and being just a number. If you don’t learn to forge relationships across the board, you are going to have a tough time. You will need recommendations. There are people on campus that have strong connections with others, and you need to get on board. Make it your business to find them. Your professor shouldn’t only know you once you failed. The second you didn’t pass a simple test you should be in their office asking questions on why you missed the information. What can you to make it better? You need to be on top of your academics. So get to it and get organized in your thinking. Remember you are investing or someone is investing a lot of time and money into you so don’t waste it.
College is a ball of fun. You will learn what you need to learn to take the next big steps in your life. You will learn about yourself. It takes a village so understand if you are a parent to reach out and have understanding. Keep the lines of communication and be a full support to your new college student. Know that it isn’t like being at home. Establish some new rules. To the student, know this will be a great time. You will have fun. Don’t let fun get in between the goal which is to graduate so you can be credentialed to be in the field of your choice. Have fun but be organized, take care of your business, and always use discernment.
Don’t worry I will highlight a few pitfalls I went through in college next week.