Transitioning your child from high school to college is an exciting time, but the summer after high school may be the last time the entire family is together for a while. If possible, take the opportunity to combine some fun with all the preparation needed to make this important first year an academic and social success.
“Freshman year is a transition for both students and parents,” says Tracey Bowen, an academic advisor who recently launched Mastering Academic Success with Tracey. In addition to working with students and parents for many years at a leading U.S. community college, Bowen went through this process with her daughter.
Make Connections and Introductions
“This is important if your child is going to school locally but critical if your child is going away to school,” explains Bowen. “It’s also essential for your peace of mind and their safety,” she adds.
Help them make connections with family, friends, and professionals who can assist them in navigating daily life while they’re away from home. When you’re the one feeling nervous about your child’s welfare, these contacts can also provide you with some peace of mind.
“Don’t forget spiritual organizations, pharmacists, doctors, financial institutions, college administrators, and other indispensable connections,” Bowen adds.
Enhance Your Child’s Basic Life Skills
Mature adults take life skills for granted, but rising college freshman often haven’t mastered skills like networking, negotiation, good decision making, and positive interpersonal communications. “They will be meeting new people and dealing with situations requiring the ability to interact well with others, often on the spot,” explains Bowen.
Begin encouraging them to become confident decision makers and communicators when you’re not around. Teach them to problem solve, negotiate to meet their needs, and set boundaries that keep them safe. “These are all things you’ve been doing for them they’ll now have to master for themselves,” she says.
“Role play interactions with professors and dealing with difficult roommates. Discuss budgeting and review proper nutrition,” adds Bowen. “These things will come up and your child may not always call you when they do,” she says, “but they will remember what you have taught them.”
Take Them Shopping for Their New Life
Some parents and kids prefer to shop at home at stores they recognize. Others, like Bowen, enjoy the opportunity to shop near their child’s college or university. “We flew to my daughter’s new city with the idea that we would do the bulk of her shopping once we arrived,” she says.
Let your child practice money management skills by establishing a budget for pre-college shopping. Make sure you buy both fun and practical items that meet their needs. Also, keep in mind that shopping at home means you’ll have to ship or transport everything you buy.
Say Goodbye on Your Own Terms
“This is a time of tremendous growth and maturity for your young person,” says Bowen. “You will always be their parent, but the journey to adulthood will stretch you in ways you cannot imagine,” she continues.
She suggests parents embrace this emotional process as they spend time with their kids. As you watch their warp speed growth during this time, also be prepared to warmly greet this new phase in your life. “Know that when they return home for the holidays, they will be only a glimpse of the awkward high school kid you drop off in August,” she says.
Make Taking Your Child to School a Mini-Vacation
“Find somewhere interesting to spend a couple of nights just enjoying each other,” Bowen says. “It gives you time to process letting go without the frenzy of campus drop off,” she adds.
This is a time to unwind and enjoy each other rather than be tourists. You and your child have four years to learn about his or her new town. Make this a retreat, and don’t feel forced to do anything that’s not relaxing.
Additionally, if your freshman’s housing is off campus, you can eliminate the stress of finding appropriate furnishings by working with CORT Furniture Rental. Student furniture packages help you easily get your child settled at school.