It's been a fun, crazy, exhausting and irreplaceable 18 years with your child. As he or she prepares to head off to university, the thought of those years coming to an end can be intimidating and scary for parents.
You and your child may share worries about safety, influences, health, social groups and academics. Here are some tips from Western Academy of Beijing's High School counselors and family coach Stephanie Tebow.
Mistakes will happen
Learning to "make it" on their own is a key part of the transition to university and eventually the "real world." Your child may get a worse grade from not doing work, spend all their money too quickly, or make poor social decisions. Do not fix their problems for them, but offer support and allow them to learn from the mistakes on their own.
Communicate, but don't monitor
As children grow up, they naturally become less dependent on their parents. Friends, sports teams, and even teachers/professors play larger roles in a child's support system. Keep communication lines open with your child; stay in touch and up to date on news and lifestyle. Maybe make a schedule to chat at a certain time each week, if that helps. But don't call your child constantly and nag them about school work or their latest romance. That may end up pushing the child even further away.
Help them prepare
If you think your child leaving is hard on you, just imagine what it's like for them: A lot of times they are leaving all of their friends, going to a brand new location, and have quite possibly the biggest academic challenges of their lives ahead of them. Listen and offer advice when asked. Gently suggest things they might like to have with them at school, like a picture that may help them feel closer to home.
For many parents, the inability to travel in case of emergencies is one of the most challenging changes with which to cope. A good idea is to establish a connection with a friend or family member who is in the city or country where your child will be going to school. Start with an introduction, suggest a regular meeting, and consider outlining a procedure for communication in emergencies.
With all of the uncertainties and worries that come with a child leaving home for the first time, don't forget that this an exciting time for you and your child! This is the start of a new phase of development in your relationship. It is an opportunity for your child to continue growing as a student and global citizen. And it's a chance for you to enjoy some more independence. Congratulate your child. Share your excitement with them. And enjoy it!
And don't forget to join the WAB Alumni Network to stay in touch with old friends. You never know how they may help you later in life!