Going to College aka Hella Change
This one’s dedicated to those swimming in the sea of school year changes. My heart is with both my soon to be or brand new college freshmen and my parent clients who are bringing their kids to campus. Look to my left-panic. Look to my right-scared outta their mind. A life change of this magnitude is HUGE. Huge for everyone in the equation. It is exciting, it is scary, it is sad, it is liberating. It is something you can survive. Here are some ways to make it feel a wee bit better.
The time of life a student picks a college is very, very special. It is also very, very scary. I worked at colleges for the better part of 20 years. Half of my current clients are students on their way or in the thick of their college experience. They are VERY special to me-their parents are also VERY important to me. I have very close, dynamic relationships with my clients. Even though the student is the one at the table with me weekly, the parent is there spirit. It is an amazing act of trust for a parent to share their child with me. While I am known for building trust with high school and college students very quickly and getting them to a place that they look forward to sessions in record time, a parent will ALWAYS know their kiddo best. Parents often contact me between sessions to check in about concerns, share accomplishments the student may not bring up, and to talk through fears they may have. After a decade of clients like these-I have learned one thing-everyone in the equation is scared. The amount of change involved in going off to college is massive. Family dynamics change, values are tested, communication is pivotal, emotions run high.
Now that I'm a mamma and have parents as life coaching clients as well, I understand the situation in a more holistic way than ever before. Here’s a few tips to make the transition better for everyone involved!
4 Ways to make going to college feel better.
Acknowledge the suck. Those of you who follow me know I love me a Mollyism. "The suck" originated as a reference for the first 30 days of college. Up is down, nothing is familiar, and even the simplest life tasks become very complex. I had a newbie freshman call me from her dorm room to tell me that she was overwhelmed by having to “hunt for food”. Translation: she had to walk to the dining hall, whereas before, her mom always stocked the fridge and cooked her meals. Whoa.The suck is real-it feels long-it can be intense. But, it is temporary. I promise.
Acknowledge and validate emotions. Acting like everything is ok for the sake of saving face is not necessarily the healthy route. It’s ok to admit your scared, or homesick, or lonely for your family. Whether you are the mom, the dad, or the kid-you’re human. It’s ok to talk about it. When my parents took me to my undergrad, I told then if they loved me, they wouldn't leave me in Kansas. (Something I regret to this day. Who says that?!? Lord.) It was my way of telling them I was scared out of my mind. Taking time to check in emotionally is ok. It’s ok to tell your kids you’re sad they are leaving-but excited for their adventure. Make sure no one feels guilty about the new change-there are more than enough positive and negative emotions to relay.
Growth and change are abundant. The year a student goes to college, the brain develops as much as the year a person learns to walk. Read that again. CRAZY. While life and home remains is rhythm, the one who leaves is growing leaps and bounds. That means there will be growing pains. When students return home for the first time after leaving, they will be surprised nothing really changed with the big change. Parents will also raise may raise an eyebrow about the changes that walk back through their door. Be cognizant of how different the worlds are and honor the growth. I’ve actually had families resent the growth the student experiences. It’s somewhat understandable. You aren’t there to see it on the daily basis, so it seems extreme when they finally do. This growth is inevitable, though. Families should be more worried if they aren’t seeing change. It could mean the student isn’t transitioning well.
Strike some deals and set some times. Parents know that colleges put forth a massive effort to keep your kids busy and distracted from homesickness. That means your kiddos are swimming in hella schedules and may have a hard time figuring out when to call. They may also be trying to navigate how to display their parent relationship in comparison to their peers. Everyone can get frustrated and more scared if phones are ringing too long without an answer. Talk about expectations of when you will talk. Every family vibes at a different frequency, so go with what works for you-just be clear on expectations. Same goes for grades and academic progress. The minute the student hits campus, they are in control of ALL of the info for the first time in their lives. Have a discussion about how often a school check-in is expected. My parents and I had a deal for final grades where we would go out to dinner without other siblings when I was on break. I got a yummy dinner of my choice. They got grades and input on my academic world. Win-win.
Get a coach. Often, a coach make everything feel better. Parents have another set of eyes and ears and so do students. Someone to help both parties adjust is always a good thing. Another win-win.