Marty and I had the pleasure of sitting on the “expert” panel at the Drake University parent orientation session last weekend. It was nice to be on the other side of those first-year jitters. We answered all kinds of questions, from “Where’s the nearest DQ?” and “Did you let your child bring a car?” to the emotional ones like, “I’m so overwhelmed, how did you do it?”
“I don’t even know what to ask,” blurted several parents, one after the other. “It’s a lot to take in,” said another Dad, “I’m sure I’ll think of plenty of questions once we get home.”
We nodded with understanding. After all, two short years ago we were in their shoes. We were first time freshman parents preparing to launch our oldest daughter. We clearly remember those overwhelming and conflicting feelings of excitement and anxiety. Of pride and fear. Of not knowing where to begin the heart-wrenching process of letting go.
Here are a few take-aways from orientation weekend, in no particular order:
- Remember this is college, not high school. It will look and feel different. You will need to parent differently.
- Alcohol is a real concern on every college campus. Talk about it now, before they leave for college. Don’t wait.
- Dorms are small. You won’t need a U-Haul.
- After a few weeks, students often get a little homesick. This is normal and can be expected. Just listen when they call—let them talk. They’ll be okay the next day.
- Send snail mail. Care packages and letters are huge day-brighteners for students.
- We need them more than they need us on move-in day. So help them move in, hug them, tell them you love them, and then walk away. You’ve done your job. It’s their turn now.
For you first timers, yes, it’s bittersweet. Yes, you might cry. And that’s ok. You will survive.