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College-Bound: Learning to Let Go

College-Bound: Learning to Let Go

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Updated on Mar 5, 2009

Yesterday, you were coaxing your son into the kindergarten classroom. Today, that same little boy is headed for college. Where did all the time go?

Arguably, a high school graduation tops the list of life’s most memorable moments. But a teen's graduation can be a bittersweet time for a parent. The culmination of 18 years together is at hand. You feel happy, sad, confident, and fearful. Your child is well prepared for the path ahead, or is he? In short, you’re a bundle of nerves. You want to hold on, but it’s time to let go. 

Lynne Ticknor, M.A., a specialist in parent and family life, reminds us that change is never easy. Transitioning from high school to college poses a major shift for everyone involved. As a parent, it is perfectly normal for you to wonder and worry. But there are steps you can take to alleviate both your separation anxiety and the stress your child may be experiencing as well. 

  • Cut the cord. This process starts long before graduation day. Allow your child to lead throughout the college application process. When visiting campuses, hook into your child’s reactions to the environment. You may think the campus is a perfect fit, but it isn’t your decision. Your child is the one who'll be putting in the time.
  • Talk openly about finances. College tuitions continue to skyrocket and housing, food, transportation, and textbook costs can break the family bank. Make it clear to your graduate what you are willing to cover financially, and what he must earn himself. Create a budget that keeps everyone on track.
  • Encourage enrollment in a “college survival” course. Many colleges and universities offer first-time students a course in navigating the campus highway. Study skills, time management, personal development, and self-awareness are highlighted. You will breathe easier knowing your child has sound advice at his fingertips. If there’s no official course available, ask an older cousin or a family friend to offer some tips.
  • Practice active listening. Your child may communicate more often than you expect. Loneliness and homesickness are sidebars to the academic experience. Take on the role of coach and trusted adviser. Validate your child’s concerns and reassure him that with time, college life will get easier.
  • Enjoy. Fretting about your college student is not productive. You have done everything a parent can do to prepare your child for life out from under your roof. Relax and enjoy the experience. Four years will fly by and, once again, you’ll wonder where all the time went.
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