Having John Junior and little Betty head off college can be an exciting time for all concerned, but equally, it can be overwhelming to the point at which life as you know it becomes simply unrecognizable.
But there are several key steps you can make – both to support them in their freshman year and subsequent years – to ensure you focus on how proud you are of their achievement and avoid getting anxious or even depressed. To quote a cliché: it is all about promoting that work-life balance for absolutely everyone, including you.
For new university or college students, one of the first things that everyone will naturally want to do is make as many friends as possible. If you end up receiving impassioned phone calls during the first week about how they don’t “fit” (or maybe you’re the one making the impassioned calls and sensing rather despondent responses) try to be the voice of reassurance. Send out a little reminder of what you have learned to be true: that the best friends in this life tend to be of the slow-burn variety, and remaining calm amid the friend-making frenzy will allow them to locate like-minded individuals. Friendship will come, and after all, if they put too much focus on socializing they will end up compromising the very reason they are there in the first place.
Now there’s another layer to this as well: as much as it seems unnatural to do so, try your best not to get too involved. If anything at all, be a guide, not a warden. Keep lines of communication open, but loose. It is only too easy to losing sleep wondering if they are OK or not.
You may find that when the young ones flee the nest, things at home tend to get a little – quiet, let’s say. If you realize that life is suddenly lacking laughter, it may just be time to reach out to your local community and get more involved. Joining various clubs, societies or sports teams is a great well to spend your spare time and get back into regularly socializing with new people. Just remember, don’t over-commit as there are only so many hours in a day. So make sure you prioritize and start getting out there!
The organization is no longer going to fall squarely on your shoulders, and you should celebrate the freedom rather than miss the security and predictability of your past responsibilities. Leaving for university means fending for oneself and that’s something that has to be accepted by everyone. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into doing laundry at weekends or taking trips up to dorms to cook wholesome meals. Nobody will tell you “no” – except you!
It also goes without saying, but there will be a lot of temptations to divert attention away from rebuilding your life and pour energy into the well-being of everyone else. Don’t neglect yourself. Have you ever wanted to go back to school yourself, perhaps just to get a certificate in something and feel a sense of achievement, or maybe as part of a new business venture? Make the most of any opportunities to take classes in subjects that appeal to you at the local community colleges.
Just remember, their college or university life, just like your new life after they leave, is probably going to be far different to what you might imagine. The odds of you completely reconfiguring your life or seeing them end up in a similar position to Senior math major Ben Campbell – as depicted in hit-movie 21 – is unlikely to say the least, although we can all dream!
Just try and enjoy, and don’t forget the importance of balance – it is something that will stand everyone in good stead both during your studies and in later life as well.