Originally published in our advice column the Laudable Life in the Lakelands Leader
Q: Our oldest child is leaving for University of Maryland next year. She’s excited, but I’m nervous. I won’t be there to wake her up for her 8am classes and I won’t be there when she needs me. What if she doesn’t like her roommate? What if she gets sick? And the idea of frat parties scares the hell out of me!
A: It is a parent’s job to love and worry about their children. This transition from high school to college can be a challenging transition for the student and the parents. First comes trust, in yourself and in your teenager. Hopefully you’ve taught her over the last few years to set alarms and make it to classes on time. I suspect you’ve done the best you could in teaching her about time management and responsibility, now it’s her turn to take your words of wisdom into action without your oversight. If she’s like most teens, she’s likely already been to parties with alcohol and has already had to use her best judgement to stay safe. Now It is important to trust that you and your spouse did your job and now it’s her turn to implement those lessons into a successful freshmen year. These last few weeks of summer is another chance you have to address any areas you think you might have missed. You may be tempted to continue your comfortable and familiar role long-distance via phone calls and text messages, but if you do consider setting a phaseout timeline for yourself before you even start. Remember you can’t hold her hand forever.
Consider redefining your parental job description from day-to-day manager to something more consultant. Consultants respond to requests for help with dispassionate and encouragingly delivered experience and wisdom. It is always solicited and never thrusted upon someone who isn’t seeking the help. So many parents struggle to make this transition and as a result tension builds between the young adult and his or her parents; feeling that they have to reject the parent in order to become an adult.
It is hard to send your child off to college and to not be able to watch over them as easily. They are only human, they will likely make mistakes, struggle with relationships, and have a few “failures” along the way, just like you did. If you still worry that these strategies won’t work for your child or your relationship with each other, consider consulting with a therapist who specializes in working with teens and young adults. You don’t have to figure this all out on your own. Often times one or just a few meetings with a seasoned professional can be incredibly helpful for getting back on track and developing a plan that works for you and your family.
Please join the conversation! Send your questions to our Kentlands Psychotherapy clinicians to Info@KentlandsPsychotherapy.com