The following two items address the transitions you, your student, and your entire family make when your son or daughter heads off to college. The first was written by a Syracuse University student and comes to us via SU's publication "Parents Campus Connection." The second is from the PaperClip Communications brochure "A New Chapter: How Parents Fit into Their Student's Lives at College." We hope you enjoy them.
1) Notes on Going Home
Two different worlds - college and home. In a few days I'll feel like I've traveled beyond the twilight zone…and home is only about a three-hour drive from here. I'm talking about a culture shock of sorts. Each time I return home for a vacation from school, I am surprised by the differences and mystified by my relationships with people in two worlds.
Upon arrival home I go through a process of re-acquaintance. A sensory rediscovery of my physical surroundings occurs first. I walk around the house touching the familiar and noticing little changes that have occurred - a new picture on the wall; some furniture rearranged; different cartoons and newspaper clippings on the bulletin board. Outdoors I see again how the house looks in November in contrast to my last view of it in the summer.
I check the refrigerator and cupboards for the good things to eat - glad to see that Mom stocked up on some of my favorites. As I settle into my bedroom, which smells a little musty from being unoccupied, I make subtle changes to set it straight - the way I like it. The picture on my dresser is in the wrong spot. The fluffy bed pillow should be on top of the flat one. I like the afghan folded at the edge of the bed instead of hanging over the back of the rocking chair. There…that feels more like my room.
My parents and I then settle down to the task of becoming re-acquainted. It isn't that we don't know one another anymore; rather it's more a time to catch up with each other's lives. I prepare myself for lots of questions. There seems to be two things pressing heavy on my parents' mind: 1) How am I doing academically? and 2) Am I behaving myself? I debate in advance just how much I want to tell my parents about college. I don't want to withhold information that would misrepresent what happens but I also don't want to give them heart attacks with some real-life stories. There is also the difficulty of communicating an experience to someone who wasn't present and who probably has not met the people involved. I tend to gloss over things with a general "Everything's fine," "I like college," and "No, I haven't chosen a major yet."
After the initial excitement that a homecoming brings, we quickly settle into our traditional routines and roles. With all the changes that college brings, I see myself in a new light, but at home I am still the same person to my family. I am my parents' daughter and that is primarily how they see me. I return from college filled with new and different experiences, capable of making decisions independently, maybe even having a few opinions of my own, and yet I am still expected to take the garbage out at night and to get out of bed by 9 a.m.
With my return home comes a different perspective of home life. Now I communicate with my family knowing how my family experiences compare to those of college friends. I examine my parents' attitudes with newly-gained knowledge of the range of opinions that can exist on a topic and assess where they fall on the continuum. A process of evaluation is taking place. I am examining the family givens in light of new information and deciding whether or not to continue accepting them. This is, perhaps, the first time I realize that the values passed through my family may not be ones I continue to live by.
Sometime shortly after my arrival I am in touch with high school friends. Once very close, I sense and awkwardness as we decide what to say after "hello." The daily sharing in our high school lives is gone. Our joint experiences are in the past and now we must find a new common ground. It seems to be a test of the strength of friendship. A relationship that previously was built upon shared experiences is now in search of a different foundation. It might be the sheer enjoyment of each other's company, or a sense of commitment, trust and loyalty.
Eventually, I begin to see that I had some initial expectations about coming home, and that they are not all being realized. Some things I wanted to be the same; I expected much change in others. I wanted to feel as close as always to my best friends, but I don't. I wanted to be perceived and accepted as a mature, sophisticated adult, but I am still the same ol' girl to my friends and parents.
Despite the disappointment of unmet expectations, I begin to understand what is happening. The two worlds are not necessarily contradictory, just independent of one another. I find myself judging them in an effort to identify my real world and my real self. It takes me some time to realize that I don't have to make a choice between my different roles and relationships. In fact, my life is fuller for the two. It means I am a multifaceted individual with the freedom to be a little different in separate settings.
I realize there always will be some need to adjust in moving from college to home and back. The family parameters change when new dimensions are added. A rebalancing occurs. As long as I remember this I feel less uncomfortable traveling between my two worlds and I begin to celebrate the diversity in my life.
2) A New Chapter…
You've been through quite a few life chapters with your son or daughter so far. From first steps to first loves, no one knows those experiences quite like you.
However, it's time. It's time to flip the page and embark upon a brand new chapter…the college years.
Transitions can be rough. Whether your child is leaving for school or living at home while attending classes, it's an adjustment for everyone involved.
Emotions are bound to be mixed. For many parents, the "I want them to stay forever young" feelings often do battle with the "Yes, they really need to grow up and go to school now" thoughts. That's completely natural. This person, whether they're an angel or a challenge, is part of your life. And that doesn't have to change.
What will change is the frequency of your communication. You won't be able to see every part of your student's life. You'll need to trust her instincts and the positive values you instilled in her. This trust is key to making the college transition work for both of you.
A student who feels trusted by his parents:
A student who feels mistrusted by her parents:
Okay, there's all this talk about change. So, what stays the same?
Again, we hope you'll find this information useful. Be sure to give us a call and let us know what you think!