So how do you parent a college student? While every child is wired differently I’d love to share a little about my college transition experience, and share some advice on what worked for me and others around me.
LET THEM BE
With the freshman year transition, immediate physical separation from my parents did a lot of good. As counter intuitive as it may sound, I noticed that the less my parents were physically present, the more I grew into my own skin.
In high school, your parents are kind of “always there”, and therefore a link to the life you need to transition away from. In my belief, it was good for me to cut myself off from my home; it also forced me to rely on The Lord and His strength, and not my own. My relationship with Him grew so much more when I only had His presence and promises to lean on.
Now, I’m not saying “PARENTS DON’T TALK OR BE WITH YOUR KIDS EVER, YOU’RE STUNTING THEIR GROWTH!” Believe me, your kids will need to talk. A lot. I couldn’t even tell you how much time I spent on the phone with my mom. That’s definitely needed. But, it should stop at that: advice and wisdom.
Additionally, encourage them to not come home as often. Again, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but establishing a presence on their campus does WORLDS of good for them. It allows them to make their school their new home, and also allows their own individual life to be established, instead of constantly having their adolescent life being fed into their present reality. Staying at school on the weekends, although hard sometimes, allowed me to develop new relationships, get to know my surroundings better, find a new home church, and just simply establish my roots. And I’m so glad I did.
STAY THE COURSE
My first semester of college was awful. Really awful. I didn’t want to be at the school I was at, I was homesick and terrified of becoming an adult. I love my school now and it had truly become home but at the time I was really struggling. However, the best thing that my parents did during those times was to remind me of God’s faithfulness. The Lord had provided in so many ridiculously amazing ways for us to even afford college and He would see me through.
My parents did the wise thing and redirected my focus away from my emotions and toward the logistics of how God had shown Himself real and present. A quote that got me through a lot: “When you cannot trace God’s hand, you can trust His heart.” (Charles Spurgeon)
THE SHIFTING OF ROLES
I found that my relationship with my parents grew tremendously when I went off to college. Our relationship transformed from one based on authority to one based on friendship and shared experience.
And the beautiful thing is that through college, I began to see my parents as wise adults who have been in my shoes before. Yes, my parents were my age at one time and learned the same exact things I did. That mutuality is absolutely priceless. Embrace that transition. It’s beautiful.
As I said earlier—college freshman need to talk things out. Talking helped ease the stress that I was feeling—and parents who were willing to listen made all the difference. This doesn’t mean you towards “fix” the problems. Sometimes just having somebody to talk to makes all the difference. These conversations further cultivated our relationship. Don’t shrug off the times that your child wants to talk. Those times mean the world to us.
Despite what I’ve suggested about transitioning away from home, please continue to show your kids that you love them. Some of the best moments in my college career were when I had this feeling of “Man, I’m growing into my own person. I’m becoming Spencer Penfield,” and then that afternoon I received a letter from my mom just saying that she loves me. Or a random phone call from my dad asking how my day was going. That combination made me feel like I could do anything
Finding ways to show your child how much you’re rooting for them, how much you love them, and how much you think what they’re doing is great- that’s what gets us by. Being separate, but continuing to love and encourage, that’s what it feels like to grow up.
So, whatever stage of the transition process you may be in and however frustrated or great you feel, rest in this truth: transitions are meant to bring us to a spot where we have to put everything into the Lord’s hands. It is through these times that we are given the beautiful opportunity to surrender to the One who is constantly working something in us. And that is a beautiful truth to rest in.
Guest Blogger: Spencer Penfield will be graduating with a major in Strategic Communication, and a minor in International Business from Cornerstone University this spring. There, he is the Marketing Intern where he helps manage the University’s social media. Spencer is an aspiring photographer, writer, dreamer, and storyteller. You can see his work www.facebook.com/spencerpenfieldphotography or www.spencerpenfield.com
Image Credited to Paul Stainthorp