The very essence of parenthood is worry. We worry about our kids' safety. We worry about peer pressure. We worry about their health. That worry doesn’t stop when they leave the safety of home and head off to college. Parents often have an extensive list of worries, but as my mother used to say, “Worry can’t change anything; it only makes you miserable.”
Here is a top 10 list of the biggest parent worries when their kids leave for college, and a little advice on how to overcome them.
1. Will my child be safe?
In today’s world, that question is at the top of parents’ minds. School shootings, sexual assaults, unsafe Greek parties, and student disappearances strike fear in the hearts of parents. What can you do? During college visits, stop by the campus police office and ask questions. Once you know how well prepared the college is to handle these types of incidences you will sleep easier at night.
2. Will my child’s values change?
You’ve had 18 years to instill in her your values and help her create a moral compass. But talk to her about the drinking and drug culture on campus, and remind her that college has peer pressure just like high school. Have the sex talk again and explain the dangers of “hooking up”. She may veer off course, but the values you have taught will eventually rise to the surface.
3. Will my child be able to handle the academics?
The bad news is that college is not high school. The good news is the college believed your kid could handle it when they offered them admission. If he struggles, there is always help available. All he has to do is ask for it. All colleges have marvelous tutoring labs.
4. How will my child be organized enough to get to class?
It might comfort you to know that all students have a schedule and will receive help planning that schedule. If they are not morning people, they can adjust their class schedule. It could be a hard lesson, but it’s time for them to be an adult. They will learn that missing classes and showing up late will have consequences.
5. What if my child gets homesick?
She will, but here’s the hard part -- don’t cave when she says she wants to come home. By going home all the time, she won’t learn to be emotionally independent. Stand firm and encourage her to get involved in campus activities, make new friends and focus on academics. Send care packages -- those always help. Before long, you will be begging her to come home for a visit because her life at college has become more important.
6. What if my child becomes ill?
He became ill at home and he will become ill at college. Arm him with cold medicine, vitamins and all necessary medication. If he does become sick, there is a health center on campus with licensed medical staff. If necessary, there is always a hospital in town that the health center can refer him to.
7. Will my kids stay in touch?
In the beginning, it will probably be every day. As they become more acclimated to college you will hear from them less and less. Don’t hound them to call or follow their every move. Believe it or not, some parents have been known to track where their students are every moment (there’s an app for that!) Don’t be that parent. Talk with your kids before they leave, and decide together when and how you will hear from them.
8. How will I know if my child is depressed or needs help?
They are your children; you will know. You will hear it in their voice or their silence. There is counseling available on campus and help available if they need it. The most important thing to remember -- don’t ignore the signs. Encourage them to get help.
9. Will my child be accepted by his/her peers?
As with the last 18 years, there will be moments when they feel rejected. Hopefully, by now, they have learned to walk away from anyone who isn’t accepting of who they are. Rejection is just a part of life, even though parents will always want to protect their children from that feeling.
10. Is my child wise enough to stay away from bad relationships?
Unfortunately the “hooking up” culture in college encourages the wrong kind of relationships. By now your kids should know when to recognize they are being used or abused. But just in case, before they leave, talk to them about the importance of finding someone who respects them for who they are and values them as a person.
Parenting is a never ending responsibility. You have spent the last 18 years guiding and training your kids to be the kind of adults you hope they will be. Take a deep breath, congratulate yourself on their accomplishment, and “don’t worry...be happy”!