Life as a college newbie has its challenges. For many, the adjustment to foreign surroundings, unfamiliar friends and a new diet of Top Ramen and Pop-Tarts gives them enough time out of their comfort zone to last a lifetime.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to help make that transition as smooth, or as awkward (depending on your preference) as possible. Should you choose to try and make life easier for your child when you drop them off for their first day at college, here are 11 things to remember.
1. Saying “hi” to everyone you see can be more than just a friendly gesture. It doesn’t matter if you’re a naturally friendly person. Outwardly greeting every living thing within a 20-yard radius of you and your family is not a great way to start off your son’s new life as a “cool” college student. In fact, it can be (gasp) embarrassing. College kids are social creatures, but they like to socialize on their own terms. You don’t need to do it for them.
2. Put the pet names on hold. Nothing says, “my parents still treat me like a kid” more than a pet name. Buddy, Baby, Sport, Champ, Sweetie. Whatever you call your son or daughter at home (unless it happens to be their real name) isn’t going to cut it on move-in day. You’re welcome to try, but if your child stops acknowledging you, don’t say you weren’t warned.
3. Keep the hugs and kisses out of sight. This is the cardinal rule of parting with your children. Hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad start losing their “cool” factor as early as preschool. By the time your kids are in college, a farewell kiss has reached the equivalent of a social life assassination. Save the X’s and O’s for a private setting or the next time your kid comes home to visit.
4. Let them handle the introductions. As much as you’d like to choose who your daughter befriends, you can’t. Anyone you introduce her to during the minimal time she has to move in will most likely not end up becoming her friend anyway. But don’t worry, she’ll develop strong, meaningful relationships with others. In fact, she’ll probably do it more successfully without you by her side, sharing stories about how it seems like just yesterday she was spitting out her peas and smearing them all over her hair.
5. Don’t ask where the “smart kids” hang out. You may not mean it this way, but asking where the “smart kids” hang out is code for “my kid is not that smart, and could really use some help.” Not a good first impression for your son to make on his future comrades, especially the ladies. If you find yourself tempted to ask a question like this, try starting with something less blatant, like, “can you show us the library, please”?
6. Remember, they can take care of themselves. “Don’t forget to make your bed, buy deodorant, and take your pills twice a day.” Those are haunting words for a teenager on the brink of college independence. They tell her friends that she’s not responsible enough to take care of herself. She still needs mom to do everything for her. And let’s face it, if they can’t remember to take care of the necessities by the time they reach college, you may want to start worrying about other things; like how they’re going to survive the next four years on their own.
7. Questions about curfew should be saved for later. One of the most exciting things about moving away from home is not having a curfew. Your son is thrilled to have finally graduated to a level of independence that allows him to decide when he goes to bed. Although that can be difficult to accept, it is an unfortunate part of life. Sure, he is going to pull some all-nighters. And they won’t all be spent cramming for an early morning exam. But what would the college experience be without those extra late nights? Asking about curfew does nothing more than embarrass your kid by making him feel like he is still a teenager at home.
8. You’re no longer your child’s personal decorator. Understandably, it would be nice for your daughter to have a clean, cute, and inviting room. And maybe she will. But it is her room, and although you may be paying for it, you’re not the one living in it. Which means it will ultimately end up looking the way she wants it to look. So, as hard as it may be to repress your inner interior designer, move-in day is the time to do it. Your daughter will appreciate your self-control. She’ll also be glad to have a room that represents her, not her parents.
9. If they leave something in the car, send it later. Once you’ve said your goodbyes and pulled out of the dorm parking lot, your child’s focus shifts. For them, it is time to move forward. Time to finish unpacking, rearranging, and getting acquainted with their roommates. With that said, it can create an awkward situation when you come knocking on the door in the middle of your daughter’s first conversation with her new roommate announcing that she left her favorite pajamas in the car. Unless it is something they absolutely cannot do without, like their favorite pair of jeans, than sending it with a box of goodies when you get home may be a better option.
10. Go home. When it is time to leave, do it. That time varies for everyone, but most of us have the ability to tell when we’ve over stayed our welcome. Cutting the apron strings can be difficult for some, but if you’re one who struggles with separating from your kids, just be grateful for cell phones and family plans.
11. There is a better time to “hook them up.” Possibly one of the greatest temptations of being a parent: playing cupid. It seems to be a natural human instinct to want to be responsible for matching a loved one with their “soul mate,” especially when that loved one is your own child. Please resist. Your son or daughter will likely find people to date without your years of wisdom or your keen eye for the “keepers” out there. Other opportunities to set your kid up will come. This just isn’t one of them.
So next time you find yourself dropping a child off at college for their first time, remember; you were once a freshman, too. And if you’re tempted to do, or say, anything that just might embarrass your kid, pull this handy list out of your pocket and save both yourself, and your child, from an awkward college send-off.