Watching your child begin their college career can be a stressful experience for parents, especially if they haven’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 children prepare for college life. Attending to your own emotional needs, however, as well as your kid’s will go a long way toward helping everyone feel comfortable with the challenges that going to college represents.
Our teens’ senior year of high school is so filled with college entrance tasks that it’s easy to lose focus on the character traits and life skills they will need to succeed “on their own”. They are about to enter adulthood, which means that we will be releasing them into responsibility for their own lives. Release means trust, not control. We must trust God and trust our kids. At this time, it is important to mentally prepare ourselves now for that transition.
What are the characteristics of the responsible adult who will smoothly transition into university life? According to Dave Veerman, in “Letting Them Go”, responsible adults:
- Make carefully considered decisions
- Follow a moral compass
- Take responsibility for their actions
- Show consideration for others
- Help those in need
- Speak and live the truth
- Pay their own way
- Invest their resources wisely
- Take good care of what has been entrusted to them
- Live in the present with an eye on the future
If we review this list and detect some growth areas for our teens, there is much we can do in these last months before they spread their wings. However, to instill skills, you must first model them. For example, a great project to help you and your child grow is to memorize scripture together. God’s Word is clear about the power of this practice (Psalm 118:11; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12). To complete this project, you need to show by example how it is done first and then have them do the task with you while you coach and encourage. Finally, you can turn this project and others over to them fully and affirm their successes.
There are some caveats we must remember as we prepare our child for independence: it is important to acknowledge all the emotions we are experiencing as this transition takes place and it is also a good idea to share our feelings with them. However, we have to be careful to balance our sharing of sadness and fear with the sharing of our joy, excitement, and trust in God. We must take care not to turn our dreams for our child into burdensome pressure. God’s plans for their lives may not be what we had in mind. College is an amazing process of honing and even discovering one’s own talents, gifts, abilities, and potential, so we keep an open mind and heart if we want to facilitate that process in a healthy way.
Time passes so quickly. As parents, we sometimes feel as though we are not ready for this leap.
We cannot stress enough how important our faith in God and our trust in His faithfulness is to this process. Take some time to look back and remember the miracles in your life with your child! Remember God’s guidance, comfort, leading, and assurance that accompanied the hills and valleys of parenting.
This should produce the gratitude and joy that makes a perfect launching pad for your child as they join the PBA Sailfish family!
Recognize that conflicting feelings about your child’s leaving home are normal. For many families, this process of separation is difficult. It is normal, too, to look forward to the relative peace and quiet of having your active older adolescent out of the house and having the place to yourself, or being able to spend time with your younger children.
Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions surface. There is little benefit in pretending that you don’t feel sad, guilty, relieved, or apprehensive when your child is getting ready to attend college. You probably aren’t fooling anyone by trying to hide your reactions; a healthier approach is to talk about them, with your family, friends, church or whomever is a source of support for you.
Make “overall wellness” a goal for yourself. Especially during stressful times, it helps to get enough sleep, eat healthful meals regularly and get adequate exercise. Spending some recharging time-doing the special things that you especially like-is another step toward wellness. If you are feeling good, you are more likely to have the energy to help your child and be a good role model.
Remember that, for your child, coming to college is a tremendously important developmental step toward full adulthood. Going to college represents the culmination of the teaching and learning of 18 years or more. This is the time when your hard work will show itself in the form of a framework that your first-year student will use in beginning to make independent choices. Many parents find that it helps to focus on the fact that providing your child with this opportunity is a priceless gift. Be proud of yourself!
Find a new creative outlet for yourself. Especially parents whose last or only child has moved away to college find that taking on a new challenge is an excellent way to manage and channel their energy and feelings. Have you ever wanted to write a book? Learn to fly fish? Make a quilt? Volunteer in your community? Assume a new project or responsibility at work. Travel? 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!
It’s hard to predict what the last day of Welcome Week will look like. Some students are chomping at the bit to begin their new life, leaving their parents feeling confident. Other students struggle with the idea of separation, often complicating matters by not articulating their feelings. They may appear irritable and sullen, but what is often happening is a struggle to embrace their new surroundings and let go of the familiar.
There is lots of activity to keep everyone busy during Welcome Week, but that moment of goodbye sneaks up pretty quickly. How do we make the best of these last moments?
One of the most important purposes in this moment of release is to pass on our blessing. Our blessing lets our students know that we accept and love them, just as they are; that they are special to us in their own unique way, and that we are confident in God’s future for them.
This is not the time to focus on changing or growing specific behaviors. Instead, it is a time to acknowledge what is on the inside: character, values, and life direction.
A wonderful resource to utilize in planning specific ways to accomplish this is the book, “The Blessing” by John Trent and Gary Smalley (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986). They teach us how to communicate our blessing through “Meaningful Touch, Spoken Words, High-Value Messages, Vision of a Special Future and Active Commitment. ” Our blessing should involve all five elements.
Our student’s greatest need in those moments of goodbye is an affirmation, especially as they look ahead to the unknown future. Our sincere and honest affirmation of who they are goes a long way toward setting them up for a successful transition.
We should tell them of our approval, say how proud we are, reassure them of our love, and share our hope and confidence in the direction that their life is taking. It can be difficult for some of us to verbalize these things, so feel free to communicate them in writing. A good way to do this is to give a special card for them to read just before you leave. You can even tuck away little postcard blessings or note cards in their belongings as you help them unpack. You never know if they will come across these messages at a time when they really need encouragement.
Some parents have just come through rough waters with their students and this process may be difficult. However, consider every positive, good quality your student has and build on that. I cannot stress enough how important this act is. It is very meaningful for us as parents and for our students and may even be a turning point in your relationship.
Some specific ways to make the day memorable:
- A special lunch or dinner in an area restaurant for just you and your student. Click here for restaurant recommendations.
- A photo album that chronicles your student’s journey into adulthood, communicates your blessing, traces God’s involvement in their life, or weaves special Scriptures within the pictures, etc.
- Hiding special notes or treats in their room
- Praying with your student just before you leave or taking a special “prayer walk” together sometime the evening before or that day
- Framing a new family picture and presenting it when you are saying, “goodbye”
- Establishing a tradition that you will repeat every time you visit the campus: a unique restaurant, a special snack, etc.
- Attending the Concert of Prayer event during Welcome Week, where you will pray with other parents and write notes that are delivered to your student a few weeks into the semester
Note: Remember, personal counseling is available to your student if he or she continues to emotionally struggle with the separation from home and with college life.
Of course, you are still a parent, and your child still needs your support and guidance. Here are some ways you can express your caring and enhance your child’s experience at PBA.
Stay in touch! Even though your child is experimenting with independent choices, he or she still needs to know that you’re there and are available to talk over both normal events and difficult issues. Make arrangements prior to each school year, in agreement with your child, to write, e-mail or call at certain agreed-upon times.
Allow space for your college student to set the agenda for some of your conversations and interactions. It can even be normal and developmentally appropriate for some college students to want little contact with their parents. Some students choose their most important relationships to be with peers and/or significant faculty. This is an important part of gaining personal identity and autonomy and can assist the college student in being able to relate to you.
Be realistic with your college student about financial matters. Most students come to school with a fairly detailed plan about how tuition, fees, books, and room and board will be paid for, and what the family’s expectations are about spending money. Being specific at the outset may help avoid misunderstandings later.
Be supportive of academic achievement and grades. PBA seeks to attract bright students from all over the world, and not every first-year student who excelled academically in high school will be an all-A student. Developing or refining the capacity to work independently and consistently and to demonstrate mastery can be more important than grades, as long as your student meets the basic academic requirements set out by PBA.
If your child does experience difficulties at PBA, encourage taking advantage of the wealth of resources available for students. Our Student Success Center is a one-stop destination for most student issues including academic, career and counseling needs. Our campus pastor, or the Health and Wellness Center may also be appropriate places to suggest to your student.
Hotels & Visitor Housing
In the West Palm Beach area, there are many quality hotels within easy driving distance of PBA!