One of the most difficult challenges that parents go through when their children go to college is letting go. Many parents are used to being completely involved in their children’s lives and really struggle not having this involvement when they don’t see their son/daughter every day.
The question that most parents have is what degree of involvement should they have with their sons/daughter’s college education. Here are some guidelines that may be useful.
1. Have your son/daughter work through their own challenges. Give them advice on how they might deal with these challenges, but don’t intervene for them. You can insist that they do certain things to resolve the issues they face, but don’t help too much.
2. Ask questions about grades and courses, but don’t overreact to bad grades (see the Topic: Reacting to Your Student’s Grades). Give advice on what they can do to improve but put the challenge on them to discipline themselves to perform better. The best students in college often started out with poor grades and learned what it took to do well. They made the commitment themselves and as a result showed their parents they were ready for another level of responsibility and accountability.
3. Don’t expect your student to come home more than once per month. Anything more frequent is harmful for their grades and their development as a person. If your son/daughter wants to come home more often, discourage this.
4. Don’t automatically take their side whenever they complain about a teacher, a roommate, a resident assistant, or other person. You don’t want to become involved in their personal dramas.
5. Don’t get access to their campus email account or to their campus grade recording system. You want to let your student have some privacy.
6. Get to know their friends (see the Topic: Checking Out Your Student’s Friends). Because friends are so essential to your son/daughter’s success, you’ll want to get to know them.
7. Try to maintain that one special thing you do together as mother/father to son/daughter. This one thing will keep the bond that you have without holding on.
You will find letting go will become easier and easier as each semester progresses. It will seem almost natural as you look back, but it can be very painful during the first semester. The toughest moment you’ll have will be when your son/daughter says after a weekend or vacation at home: “I have to go home now.” The home they are referring to is the campus. No matter how painful simple sentence is to you, you’ll know that you have been successful at letting go..