I was there last year.
I have to admit…
That first year of college was one of my hardest parenting years… I would gladly redo the terrible twos rather than go through that again.
I have a great girl and the teenage years were pretty dang easy. On some level the hubs and I were patting each other on the back that we had done a great job. The general consensus from all who know our girl was that she “has a good head on her shoulders.” …and she does, but navigating that whole first year of independence was a little crazy.
How much do you parent a college kid?
HOW do you parent a college kid?
How much independence do you give them? (Ha ha ha ha… give… poor choice of words…)
When do you step in and rescue them from their mistake and when do you stand back, let them fall and help pick them up?
Is your role mainly just to give advice when asked? What if they never ask? If you are helping financially, what are the expectations?
These last couple weeks of the summer are spent counting towels and putting together first aid kits. As moms, we are used to prepping and packing. We excel in it. All of the different college parents association’s Facebook pages are all a flutter with storage ideas and dorm room questions. All of the seasoned parents are giving advice to the newbies. …make sure you bring a mattress topper because the dorm mattresses are thin… make sure you remember to provide them with cold medicine… great storage ideas… laundry essentials…
I am realizing that I should have worried less about that and thought more about laying down some guidelines for the next year. Here are some things that I think should be discussed as you are navigating this change in your relationship.
1. Communication. How much communication are you (the parent) expecting? For our family we had to set a guideline. If I (the parent) call or text you (the student), I want some sort of response within 4-6 hours. I want to have a phone or skype conversation at least once a week. On the other side of the equation, how much communication is too much? This one was hard for me the first couple of weeks. You know all of those things that you think of during the day that you need to ask them or talk about when they get home? …but they aren’t coming home today…or this week… At first I would just text her as I thought of them. This was not good when the first couple of days I was thinking of 4-6 things a day. It was NOT well received.
2. Finances. I think in most situations students are getting at least some help from their parents. Are you putting the money into their bank account and they are paying the bills or are you paying the bills directly? What are the consequences if they aren’t spending the money as you have allocated it? Often times parents have access to the student’s bank account, how much say do you have over how they are spending the money? Does your student have the right to feel violated if you are reviewing their purchases with your online access?
3. Expectations. Is their a grade expectation tied to your financial contributions? How much input should you (the parent) have over their course choices? What are your expectations of them about their choices and behavior? What are the consequences if you find out that they are making bad choices? If they have possession of a family owned vehicle, what are the expectations? Can that vehicle leave the city… the state? Can friends drive the vehicle?
All in all, my daughter is pretty awesome and she had a pretty great year, but it was a very hard year to navigate. All of the sudden, as a parent, you have very little control. You don’t know where they are going at night. You don’t know who their friends are. You don’t even know if they are really going to class. I never really considered myself a controlling mom, but it was really hard just let go.
I am realizing that that sense of being responsible for them might not ever fade, but that ability to protect them (even from themselves) fades quickly.