A Christian college dean answers your questions about how to handle the transition of your teen going to college.
Q: While I am excited my son is growing up, I am going to miss being a part of his life. In fact, I'm tempted to insist he attend a school locally. I'm wondering how to let go and still be a part of his life.
A: I'm pretty sure you're not going to give into your temptation. If your son picks a school far away, you'll support him. Why? Because you love him and want what's best for him. Even if it hurts.
When a child goes away to college, this big change impacts the entire family.
Here's the goal you want to keep in mind: You want to help him make the transition in such a way that moves him toward independence and maturity, and yet also assures a healthy, albeit changing, relationship between parent and child. That starts with him being in the driver's seat of the college choice. Try hard not to even subtly manipulate his decision. It's OK to say you'll miss him. It's OK to cry. But it's also important to communicate loudly and clearly: "I love you. I want the best for you. I respect your decision." And no matter what, you're still his mom.
What does this look like now? First off, get those special parents' weekends on the calendar. Now, what about other visits? And what about phone calls? Should you call him daily? Weekly? And how often should you e-mail? Talk about it. I've seen too many "helicopter parents"—moms and dads who are always hovering over their children. Most college students don't appreciate that—and they certainly don't need that. Even if he does attend a college close to home, keep an appropriate "distance"—and let him decide what's appropriate.
What's really important is that you allow your son to establish himself on campus. He needs to develop new friends. He needs to learn to write papers without Mom proofing them. He needs to get involved. He needs to take care of himself. Yes, this includes doing his own laundry!
Remember: This is not all just about his growth. It's about your growth, as well. You will be learning, even with some mistakes here and there, what it means to be the mother of an adult child. With a little patience and a good bit of prayer, you and your son will get through this time. You'll also come to take a great deal of motherly pride in the fact that you've played an essential role in helping your little boy turn into the man he's rapidly becoming.
Written by Skip Trudeaun