Helping Your Student Move In

MoveIt’s hard to predict what that last day of Welcome Week will look like. Some students are chomping at the bit to begin their new life, leaving parents feeling confident, yet sad at being so easily dismissed. 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 student 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 specific behaviors, as those can be positive or negative – we all make mistakes. 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 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 it in writing. Give a special card 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 the encouragement.

Some parents have just come through rough waters with their student 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 student and may even be a turning point in our relationship.

Some specific ways to make the day memorable:

  • A special lunch or dinner in an area restaurant for just you and your student
  • 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.
  • Presenting a CD of music specially chosen to communicate your love
  • Asking your student (ahead of time) to record a CD of their favorite music that they will present to you when you are leaving
  • Hiding special notes or treats in their room
  • Praying with your student just before you leave or taking a special “prayer walk” together some time 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.