With the summer season upon us, many students are making their final decisions about where they'll be attending college in the fall. Even if it's still undecided, students can and should already start preparing for their new lives on campus. Leaving the nest can be just as difficult for students as it is for parents. Under the guise of excitement for their new independence, many students can quickly feel overwhelmed by all of the changes, no matter how small.
What comes to mind to most of us are the basics: first of all, have they ever done their own laundry? Start making this a regular practice if it's not already one. Being less available to the student as early as now will start training them to rely on themselves more. This is a simple adjustment that can make things a lot easier down the line. Adjusting habits now will carry over when the student is on their own and has to learn to take care of things independently.
On a deeper note, how will they be when their current friends are not in the same school as them? Separation with friends can be traumatic for some students that are attending college far away. Already start to open the conversation about their feelings and fears, and reassure them that in college, everyone comes in on the same blank slate. Everyone is vulnerable and everyone wants to make friends. Encourage them not to contact their old friends all the time, because this can close them off to the new people that can be critical contacts early on.
How will they interact with others? Is the student confident enough to start a conversation with their roommate and suggest an outing together? What ways can they advocate for themselves if they haven’t already stretched that “muscle”? In college, we encounter many new situations that we're not used to finding solutions for - roommate problems being one of them. Make sure that the student knows who to contact in the case of a problem and how to present a problem clearly and maturely.
Finally, how can the parent prepare themselves for when their son or daughter leaves the nest? This transition is not only difficult for students, but also for parents. Parents need to remind themselves that no matter how hard it is to see their children leave, it is critically important that students test their trust in themselves to find independence, as that is the only way they can truly learn and grow.
All of these questions are best attacked well in advance of this major life change. So, start the conversation and make sure you're both prepared for this exciting and challenging time.
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Neal Schwartz, Owner
College Planning of Westchester
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