Parenting 101: How to Let Go as Your Child Heads Off to College

SATURDAY Aug. 21, 2010 -- Experts used to advise parents to simply sever ties when their children left home to start college, but they now recommend letting go in phases and stages.

"A generation ago, people like me used to advise parents to cut the cord. Let the students figure things out for themselves. But over the years, we've moderated our advice. We talk to parents about 'the power of letting go,'" Levester Johnson, vice president of student affairs at Butler University in Indianapolis, said in a university news release.

He offered a number of suggestions to help parents adjust to this major change.

It's important to keep in contact with your child but don't do it in an overly intrusive way. Remember that a major part of your child's college experience is developing the independence it takes to survive in the world.

There are many ways to communicate, including phone, e-mail, text messages or social networking sites.

While allowing your child independence and privacy, by sure to let them know they can count on you if they need help.

If your child does have a problem at school, give them the opportunity to try to work it out. For example, if there's an issue with a roommate, your child should deal with people on campus who are there to help with such matters. You can advise them where to seek assistance but don't make the call yourself, Johnson said.

For parents who are having difficulty letting go, many universities offer special sessions to help them with the transition. Parents also can stay connected by taking a role in a parents council and events such as Parents Weekend and Homecoming.

But, Johnson stressed, parents should not make regular visits to the campus or encourage their child to make frequent visits home.

"They need to be part of campus life and learn basic life skills -- like how to do their own laundry and establish a new group of friends," Johnson said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more on starting college.

Posted: August 2010


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