GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- It’s that time of year again- back to school. While for some parents it is just sending their kids to the same school they have been going to for years, others are left teary eyed as they see their child’s new dorm building in the review mirror.
Freshman year of college is a huge change for both students and parents. It is not something you can fully prepare for but instead dive into head first. Here is a list of things to do and not to do during your child’s new journey.
Do visit with gifts. Now we aren’t talking large extravagant ones, just ones that show your child you were thinking about them. Treats from a local shop, or straight from your own kitchen is the perfect way to brighten a students day and remind them of home. It will also be one of the only home cooked things they have ate in a while.
Don’t draw out the visit. Their schedules are packed full of events, classes, and homework. While a visit from the parents is always welcome, it needs to be in a timely manner so your child has time to do everything else on their plate.
Do use face-to-face visits to tell your student how proud you are of him or her. Your child strives to receive your approval and never gets tired of hearing about your pride.
Don’t show up without planning to spend some time on campus. Your child is in a new place and is super excited to show you everything they get to see and do on a daily basis.
Do listen without interruption. A freshman in college has A LOT on their mind. It is racing a mile a minute and they need to let it out!
Don’t compare your student’s journey to others. Every person goes through their freshman year differently.
Do send photos of pets. They are always welcome and highly appreciated. And, often get shown to the entire dorm building because pets are the topic of conversation most of the time.
Don’t assume everything is going perfectly well because it most certainly isn’t. Freshman year is very complex and your child will be faced with a lot of tough decisions.
Do ask about their expectations and adjust your own. The expectations you have in place may not correspond with your child’s. See what your child expects out of their college journey and compare them to yours. It is beneficial to be on the same page when it comes to what your student should get out of their freshman year.
Don’t expect perfection. Nobody is perfect. Especially not college freshman. They will make mistakes as they transition from a dependent teen to and active member of society. And if they fall (fail a class or make a bad decision) always be there for them without the nagging.
Do offer constructive advice. Don’t tell your child what to do in their situation, give them ideas of how they can handle the curve balls college throws their way.
Don’t demand daily communication. Freshman year is the time for a student to spread their wings and start to become more independent. They have very busy schedules and don’t always have time to sit and chat.
Do embrace technology. Your child will not be able to come home all the time so a phone will be their go-to source of communication.
Don’t stalk your child on social media. You might want to keep up with your child’s life but social media is not the place to do so. Freshman year is a fun and exciting time and their will be many photos posted portraying just how much fun they are having. Remember, you were once their age too.
Do be mindful of boundaries. Your child is starting a new chapter in their life and they need time to explore and figure things out on their own.
Don’t get too emotional. As the parent, you set the tone when leaving for this new experience. Being over emotional will make your child dread leaving even more. Ugly cry as much as you want once you are away from them.
Do plan something your family loves to do together. This will show your child they can still do the things they have grown up to love and that not everything completely changes when going to college.