So the day has finally arrived that you’ve looked forward to and dreaded ever since your baby took his first tentative steps across the carpet away from you: your child is going off to college. It’s an incredible time, and one of the benchmarks on his way to adulthood. For most parents it is bittersweet. You’re incredibly proud of your child’s accomplishments and excited for what his future will bring, while also a bit terrified about the missteps he may make in the coming year. Well, if it’s any consolation your young adult is probably just as conflicted. Parents worry when their kids go away to college. He’s undoubtedly excited for a bit more independence and the larger world outside of high school. But he’s also nervous about leaving the comforts of home and the support of his friends and family. In the end, he’ll be just fine, and continue to make you proud over the course of his college career. Here are five ways to help your young adult adjust to college life.
First of all, you’ve got to provide financial support while also leaving him room to make his decisions. This is a real balancing act, but the fact is you cannot control every cent he spends, even if you’re the one paying for college. This is a time your young adult will learn personal responsibility, and take the first steps towards actually caring for himself. So find the right balance.
Give him a meal card for on campus food, but make sure your young adult also has a bank account. Set it up so you have access, meaning you can deposit funds in a pinch. But give him a debit card he can use to draw from this account. It should be a mix of your contributions and his money from working through high school, but this way he’ll feel the proper amount of support and independence.
You can also make sure he can easily get in touch if he’s feeling homesick. Consider sending him off with an open plane or bus ticket home as a sort of ‘break glass in case of emergency’ option. Chances are he won’t use it, but the mere knowledge that he can come home for a visit if he needs or wants some time away from school could help overcome any nerves. It’s also a good idea to set him up with a prepaid phone card or connect your home and his dorm with video chatting over the computer.
All that connectivity is great, but you can’t go overboard. Try to give him a couple of weeks at school before you check in. You’ll be dying to know what’s going on, but let your young adult be the one to reach out at first. You can set up a regular schedule if needed, but you want your teen to know that you trust him. Allowing him to make the first calls home will show that you’re giving him the space to grow in his new environment, even if it kills you a little bit.
Your young adult’s dorm is his new home away from home, and you can help make the transition easier by sending him off with essentials that make the dorm room more comfortable. This could be as simple as a few pictures and his bedding set from home, or as complicated as a total redesign with half of his old room. It will depend in large part on his new living situation, and you don’t want to be the mom that’s sewing him brand new pillows to help with his allergies. But personal touches from home will always be appreciated.
Finally, don’t forget about the well-timed care package. After a month or so has passed, your young adult is probably getting into a rhythm. He may be totally content, or he may still really miss home. Sending along a care package will show him how loved he is, while also replenishing his supplies after a month of guaranteed overindulgence. It doesn’t take a master degree in public health to know that college kids like to eat. He’ll have plenty of time to drop that Freshman Fifteen after he’s more settled, so don’t be afraid to spoil him with one of your signature, freshly baked desserts!