As some of you know, I work for a private university and we like many schools start classes this week. This means there are a lot of parents missing their first, middle, or last child right about now, and in the many years I’ve been working with students, I’ve found there are four lessons for the parents to learn without their college freshman in this upcoming semester.
1. Leave them without calling non-stop.
The temptation to stay extra days to ensure they have absolutely everything they could ever need for the first 150 days of college will be strong, but you must drive the car away from campus. When you leave, it forces your child to get involved in their new community. Say goodbye and let them experience all the highs and lows of being in a new place. Then, once you've left, don’t call every hour checking in on them. That somewhat defeats the purpose of leaving. Don’t fear the absolute worst if they go three hours without answering their phone. Recognize that not only must you leave them, but you also must let them breathe.
2. Let them fight through the lonely.
I know this is like a knife to the heart for most parents. No one wants to see their child upset or hear loneliness in their voice. Your first instinct is to figure out how to fix it for them, which most often entails inviting them home for the weekend (or going back to visit them). Part of growing as an individual is developing strength to push through the difficult seasons- the lonely seasons even. It is completely normal for college students to feel lonely at different points in their first year. Has anyone ever moved to a new place and not felt the twinge of loneliness some weekend? Instead of inviting them home to what’s familiar, encourage and challenge them to meet new people and try new things. Help them see that friendships take time, and they will eventually find their group. Encourage your child to stay at school the first six weekends. I know that might sound like an eternity, but the weekend is where they will relax, enjoy what the campus has to offer, and will start to make friends.
Loneliness will fade, but it can be a powerful teacher while it’s present. It can be the push your child needs to talk to their neighbor, classmate, or suite mate. Push through your own loneliness without your child at home, and encourage them to start making their college campus feel like home.**
[**If your child struggles with depression or anxiety, you might need to be involved a little more.]
3. Let them figure things out.
Your child may not get along with their roommate. They may have a terrifying instructor. They may get a parking ticket. They may flunk a class.
I can promise you there will be something in their first semester that does not follow the plan because it’s life, right?! When does everything always go perfectly? When something unexpected happens, if your first instinct is to call the professor, the residence hall director, or the campus security, sit on it. Let your child set an appointment to talk to their professor. Let your child learn how to speak to their roommate about their disagreement. Let your child talk to someone about their parking ticket. We are not helping our children by fixing every problem for them. Eventually they will need to pay their own bills, deal with their own conflicts, and find solutions for their own problems. I’m not saying you can’t give your child advice and direction for what steps they should consider taking, but I am saying it’s important to let them have the conversations and take the steps to address their problems. College is a great place to learn how to “adult,” but too often college students aren’t encouraged to learn those lessons. Adulting may not always be a fun lesson to learn, but is one that is essential for their success after college.
4. Love them through it.
Your child is navigating a whole world of “new-ness,” and even for the student who is a pro at navigating change, it can be overwhelming. Be the cheerleader. The encourager. The chief “You can do it!” voice in their life. You probably know your child better than anyone, so remind them of their strengths, their gifts, and their value. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are still one of the most important voices in their lives, and you can boost their confidence in the face of the unknown.
I know dropping your child off at college is incredibly hard, but it’s also an incredible privilege. You’ve always known your child’s strengths, but now they’re learning how to share their gifts with the world. Your role as parent has not diminished, it’s just changed. Now you get to be walk alongside them more often than leading them and that’s a very special place to be.
What is it about January 1st of a new year that we decide the world is our oyster and we can dream impossible dreams and climb to new heights? What is so magical about the change from December 31st to January 1st that we go from dismal “I’m a failure at life” to “I’m going to be the next superhero and change the world?”
I have a roller coaster relationship with new year’s resolutions. I did them for a while after college and then felt that they didn’t actually inspire any change in my life and so I stopped making them. Then I got married and my husband is a believer in “new year = new goals”, so I started doing them again, albeit skeptically.
However, as we planned our new goals for 2017 and looked back at our goals for 2016, I realized that setting new year’s resolutions was actually helpful for me. I actually accomplished most of my new year’s resolutions in 2016 which led me to ponder what brought about that change. After years of yo-yoing on new year’s resolutions, why are they finally working?
I think it’s three factors.
1. I had to decide that I was done with unrealistic dreams.
I was ready to accomplish something which means being honest about what works and what doesn’t. For me, that involved setting schedules and developing habits. Take for example, exercise. I’m not someone who wakes up at 5am and goes to the gym. So rather than set that as a goal and then fail year after year, I’m changing the goal so that I still accomplish the end result but in my own way. I exercise in the evenings. Do I still wish I could bound out of bed in the wee hours of the morning? Yep! But I’ve realized I’m not one for bounding so instead let’s make realistic new year’s goals and then be able to be successful! Sometimes admitting that you won’t be able to do something is the best way to start completing the bigger goal!
2. I had to accept the reality of change.
I don’t actually become a different person in the hours I’m asleep between the end of last year and the beginning of a new one. I’m still the same old me! Which means I’m not going to suddenly have new abilities and disciplines to accomplish all my dreams in 2017. Instead it means that I need to understand effective change happens step by step. We all know the parable of the tortoise and the hare and the take-away being “slow and steady wins the race.” But I think we call admit that fast and furious change is way more exciting and what we prefer! Well last month I watched a video on YouTube where they actually put a tortoise and hare in a race. And guess what? The hare left the tortoise in its tracks… until half-way down the lane, the hare became distracted by something in the stands…and wouldn’t you know, slowly but surely, that tortious plodded on and crossed the finish line first! Maybe that’s why nutritionists say its’ better to lose small amounts of weight weekly than tons of weight all at once…. Hmmm… it’s all making sense now! The reality of change means taking things slow and seeing long-term transformation rather than the instant gratification that is fleeting and underdeveloped.
3. I had to value the importance of a deadline.
I was always critical about setting goals year by year. I felt that if a goal was worth accomplishing then I shouldn’t take an entire year for it, or it shouldn’t be something that ends after one year! I’m realizing now that I totally missed the point of yearly resolutions. It’s actually not about the length of time as much as it is about a deadline. At least for me (and probably a lot of other people too), we work better knowing there’s a due date for our tasks. I do laundry because I have a deadline (my deadline being when we run out of clean underwear). I cook because I have a deadline driven by my hunger. I get things done at work by prioritizing them on their deadlines. See the common thread? Deadlines are there to help us be productive and work on our tasks, projects, or goals. I had to start seeing December 31st as a deadline to work towards rather than a random date used for traditions. Deadlines drive productivity.
So this year, I’ve made my resolutions and I’m actually excited about working on them because they’re actually doable and I will better myself by accomplishing them. 2017 I’m coming for you! Who’s with me?
Having spent the last four years of my life working with high school and first year college students, I am convinced that there are three decisions that young women need to make before they move into their new home at their beloved college campus.
The unspoken truth is that as a graduated high school senior, you do not become a new person in the summer months at home before beginning as a freshman. Yes, you receive a “fresh start” but you will very quickly find yourself in a life that looks eerily like your past four years if you don’t make some decisions about your life trajectory. I have found that some of the best life lessons were actually formed in our kindergarten years…we just have to be willing to remember them.
1. Decide which grade you will revert back to when picking friends.
The truth is you will still have to make friends in college. Although in some ways it will be easier if you’re living in a residence hall, the bottom line is you still have to decide who will be in your friend group(s), they don’t magically form.
Just like high school, there will be varying levels of popularity, styles, interests, and opportunities. If you want a repeat of high school, I recommend speaking and behaving just like you did in high school. If, however, you would like to enrich your life with incredible friends, I recommend going back to the friend-making skills you had in kindergarten.
Remember those days?
When you became friends with someone because they were nice and not because of what they were wearing? When you talked to someone simply because you sat by them and not based on what your other friends thought of them? When discovery of skin colors was a fascinating topic of conversation rather than a stereotype of dislike? When kids who made fun of other kids were considered bullies instead of popular?
Try being as open-minded about people in college as you were in kindergarten. Let yourself take advantage of the “fresh start” by befriending everyone you come across. Don’t put yourself back in the same friend box you did in high school.
2. Decide if your faith is important enough to you to determine how you will live.
There’s a reason Jesus tells us to have the “faith of a child.” Have you ever talked to a child about Jesus?! There’s no fear, no hesitation, no questioning of the appropriateness of the conversation. They’ll tell you all about Jesus because He is a real part of their lives- they don’t know how to compartmentalize him! Their faith in Jesus influences their actions.
One time my niece went to a party where she knew other kids would be there that didn’t know about Jesus. She asked her mom if they could take a craft that would show the other kids about Jesus’ love and salvation. She knew Jesus was at the party with her. Her faith determined her actions- in a very public setting!
When you carry a child-like faith with you into college, your relationship with Christ will determine e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. … the people you interact with, the parties you attend, the behaviors you exhibit, the amount you study, etc…. Having a child-like faith means Jesus isn’t left behind in high school.
3. Decide that your instinct and your standards are trustworthy, respectable, and worth keeping.
Do you remember ever crying to your mom about someone hurting you either physically or verbally as a kid? Of course! What about telling her that someone scared you? We all did! Why? Because our parents had taught us that it was wrong for anyone to hit or hurt, be mean to or make fun of. So, when we were hurt or made fun of, we went running to our moms telling her what happened. Someone had broken the rules, and we knew it wasn’t right! We also were taught to trust our instincts. Maybe not in those exact words, but if someone scared us, we ran away from the scary person and went running into the arms of our parents for comfort and security.
As girls turn into young women, however, the world tears at their instincts and mocks their standards.
Ladies, be child-like. Stand up for yourself by speaking the truth. Fight for equality of treatment. Believe in the simplicity that good men and good friends exist, and keep looking until you find them. Leave those that try to destroy your standards and instinct. Tell someone when you’ve been hurt. Don’t give in to the voice of the culture believing you have to choose between your value and your relationships.
Start making your college experience the best one possible. Re-live your kindergarten days:
Make friends. Love Jesus. Keep your standards.
Oh and… tell your mom and dad you love them. It maybe means even more to them now than it did back then.
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!