Today’s college freshmen are a true paradox. More of them have traveled farther in their 18 years than many of their parents have in twice that time. They tend to be more aware of global issues and current events.

Yet, despite this outward appearance of maturity, many have never prepared a meal for themselves or done a load of laundry. They’ve been busy, but not at managing daily responsibilities. So while they may be less naïve, they are often clueless when it comes to the basic life skills. So, as parents, you worry.

Communications guidelines

For a lot of parents the transition to not knowing what is going on in their children’s day-to-day life is challenging: What are they eating? Are they doing their homework? Are they being smart about being safe? What if they’re sick? Are they managing their money well? Are they getting along with their roommate?
While these are all reasonable questions, parents need to be the ones to back off and allow their children to leave the nest and even occasionally stumble. Talk to your child about his or her desired frequency of communication. Many students like to check in with their parents in between classes as they are crossing campus. It works for parents because the student initiates the call, (that’s always better) and there is a limited time to chat. Read that as less time to nag about “did you…?”

Don’t sell the house!

Children need to be reassured that they still have a home base. Freshmen counselors also advise parents against immediately converting their children’s rooms to workout space, etc. I remember that shortly after my older brother left for college my mother thought it would be nice for me to have his “big” room instead of sharing a bedroom with my sister. She redecorated it and moved all of my brother’s belongings into the tiny guest room. Needless to say, he was very surprised and shaken up when he came home for Thanksgiving. If you anticipate making a room change, discuss it with your child in advance.

Don’t feel guilty about letting your child know that you’re enjoying this new phase of your life as well. Write a letter by hand and share your dreams and wishes for your child as he or she takes this exciting new step. Make a copy for yourself and read it whenever the mood strikes.

If you’re worried that your children won’t come home – don’t! They’ll return with laundry and maybe bring some friends and even their friends’ laundry!

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