College doors will soon fling wide and the last of our three children will confidently walk right through them. She is excited and I must admit that I’m excited for her. But there is some backend work that must be done to ensure her college years will be a success.
On our end, thoughts are being thought, tears are being cried, spreadsheets are being spread and plans are being planned. On her end, she’s happy for us to do the thinking, crying and planning parts. This allows her the space to dream big dreams and spread her wings instead of ‘spreading sheets’. I don’t blame her. I wanted that too when I was her age. She will be propelled into “adulting” soon enough so we’re happy to let her enjoy some of these dreamy moments while she can.
Whether your kids are going to uni two hours away from you or on the other side of the planet (as ours have), whether they’re going for an Associates, Bachelors or Medical degree, here are a few things we parents can do that could help set them up for collegiate success.
In no particular order:
We will pack up our daughter’s belongings and put her on a plane headed across the pond. Our arms simply aren’t long enough to hold on. We will have to let her fly – figuratively and literally.
When our kids leave for college, we need to let them go. That’s what we wanted too, right? This doesn’t mean we give them carte blanche. Our kids knew that as long as we were paying for them to live, we would always listen but we would always have final say. There has to be a balance in the give and take. Letting them go affords trust to be built while smothering tends to make them push back. When we release our children, we give them the freedom to want to return.
Pray a lot. I could stop there because prayer alone is the most important thing we can do to set our kids up for success at any age or in any stage. Somewhere along the way, we get in our heads that we can take care of our kids better than their Creator. Parents, we will eat ourselves up with worry if we don’t entrust them to God’s care. We have to get to the point where we fully believe that God cares for our children more than we do.
Each family’s life circumstances will dictate different levels of ability to provide for their children. The areas in which we need to provide, however, are similar. As parents, we need to provide for the college years ahead as best we can, just like we’ve done in years past.
Emotionally: Adjusting to college life on their own while still being under the umbrella of their parents is quite a transition. It’s an “I want to be an adult on my own but I can’t be yet” sort of place and it’s just awkward. We should pay close attention to our kids and be prepared to help them navigate what’s going on in their heads and hearts. This may include sourcing professional help at times. Good parents know when it’s time to call for reinforcements.
Physically: Whether our children are 2 hours away or 2 days away, we should make sure we are physically available as much as is sensible. They are going to need our help moving in and out and we’ll need to take them out to eat real food in a restaurant. Those places with utensils and cloth napkins. They’re going to need reminders of what civilization looks like. We need to make space in our lives to be physically present as much as we can.
Financially: We approached our kid’s college education as their job. Their classes may only take a few hours each day but we wanted them to have plenty of space for homework, getting extra help in tougher courses and having a little bit of down time. We felt it important for them to get settled in their new “position” for at least a semester or two before taking on other commitments that would distract them from their “9-5”. Providing financially gives our children the space to focus on their education.
Regardless of the level of support we are able to offer, our children need to know we’re with them and for them. This doesn’t mean we’re a vending machine stocked with time and resources ready to dispense at the push of a button. It means we give them what they need, which often looks a little (or a lot) different than what they think they need. Hopefully, by now, they trust that we have their best interest at heart.
We want our children to have a successful college life so that they can have a successful post-college life. Their successful post-college life will be our successful post-college life as well.