If you’re a mom or dad, you are definitely no stranger to worry. From the first time you fretted over those newborn wails, you’ve probably dealt with all kinds of anxiety, big and small, as your child grew from a toddler to a teen.
So why should things change now? Of course you’re going to worry when you send your young adult off to college for the very first time.
Relax and take a deep, cleansing breath. Our advice will help calm you down when you worry that:
She’ll be terribly homesick
You might be fielding frequent tearful phone calls, or perhaps your child will act as if everything is fine, even though you can tell it’s not. No matter how it manifests, homesickness is extremely common among college freshman, and in a way, it’s a good thing: Missing home and family is a sign of the happy, positive feelings your child associates with those things. But resist the urge to rush in to rescue her by bringing her home. Instead, text and phone frequently and encourage other family members to do the same. Listen sympathetically when she calls, and plan to visit her on campus within the first six to eight weeks. (Just knowing you’ll be there soon will give her something to look forward to.) Push her to get involved in clubs, activities and social events -- even if she says she doesn’t want to. If you’re really concerned, encourage her to talk to a resident advisor or student counselor who no doubt has plenty experience dealing with homesick kids. But accept that you can only do so much: Working through uncomfortable feelings is a part of growing up -- and that’s something she has to do on her own.
He’ll drink too much
Beer-pong tournaments and alcohol-fueled frat parties are a part of college life -- and despite what some students think, they’re not all fun and games. Excessive drinking leads to academic problems, criminal behavior, serious and sometimes fatal, health consequences. Have a candid discussion with your child before he goes off to school. Tell him in no uncertain terms that underage drinking, using a fake ID and driving under the influence are all illegal and can have lifelong repercussions. Investigate the college’s policies on alcohol abuse, including rules about parental notification -- and make sure your child is aware that you’ve done so. Don’t let the conversation stop there: In the first few months of school, ask frequently about the campus drinking scene and remind your child repeatedly that you expect her to behave responsibly. You may not be able to control her completely, but you can rest assured that at least part of your message will sink in.
She won’t take her schoolwork seriously
If you’ve been the type of parent who has had to beg, bribe and cajole your child to complete her homework, you’ve got cause for concern. College life is filled with distractions, and students who aren’t self-motivated can run into trouble. (Fortunately, most kids are accustomed to managing schoolwork on their own by now.) Still, it can’t hurt to spell out your expectations: Remind your child that her education entails a significant financial commitment and that you expect a return on the investment. Throughout the semester, ask questions about attendance, assignments and grades. Some parents find it is helpful to suggest a specific grade point average they would like their student to maintain.
Who will take care of him if he gets sick?
No question about it: Being in bed with flu and fever can make even the most stoic student pine for his mother. While you can’t be around to deliver chicken soup, you can encourage your child to visit the student health center and follow the doctor’s orders. Ease his concerns about missing classes by reminding him to e-mail his professors, who understand that kids get sick. Check in by phone more frequently than usual, and if you’ve got any reason to suspect an emergency, call the college (either the college health or residential services staff) to make sure someone stays on the case.
She isn’t getting along with her roommate
Here’s one worry you need to let go of: This is your child’s problem -- not yours. Unless the situation poses a threat to her health or safety, you’ve simply got to butt out. Listen to her complaints, offer suggestions on how to deal and then let her work things out herself. Part of the college experience is learning to navigate challenging situations -- and you should feel confident that you’ve raised a child who’s resourceful enough to do that on her own.
Staying In Touch
With e-mail, instant messaging, texting and cell phone calls, maintaining contact with your college student has never been easier. The benefits are obvious, but there’s a downside potential: Too much contact can prevent a child from developing independence. There are no rules about how often to connect, but experts say you should let your child initiate most of the contact. As for you, don’t neglect the old-fashioned ways of staying in touch: For all their modern devices, students still enjoy snail-mail cards, letters and care packages from home.