The boxes are packed — so is the car — and your first bird is ready to leave the nest. Here are eight tips from a career educator to help you through the days ahead.
Let’s get the toughest one out of the way. College is really not about getting an academic education. It is about growing up into adulthood, about learning to get along with people they like and dislike, learning to compromise and negotiate calmly. They don’t always get their way like they did most of the time at home.
Second tip — don’t let your child come home before Thanksgiving.
Somewhere in September or October, they will get homesick. They will have had enough of that uncaring and impersonal big world and long for the warm and loving environment called home, where they are always right. It is up to you to make them stay at school and learn to overcome this anxiety.
Third tip — do not let them call you all day every day with every mishap. Likewise, do not call them all the time to see how they are. One call a day is sufficient.
It is time for them to make their own 1,000 little decisions each and every day — and live with the consequences. They will make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t have them living with your mistakes by making the decisions for them.
Here is a do — Do give them one credit card to build financial sense and a credit history.
But, make a deal with them that the credit card is to be used for books and fees, which mom and dad will pay. Any other charges are to be deducted from the child’s monthly allowance. This use of a credit card, paid in full each month, will begin to create a good credit history for the student for when they graduate.
Do say “I love you” with care packages. Whether 10, 15, or 20 years old, everyone loves to receive a package with their favorite candy and cookies, with a note that says I love you.
When you do talk, remember to listen and ask questions — and try not to tell them what to do.
They will need a sympathetic ear from time to time, just someone who loves them to listen to them like mom or dad. Listen, listen, listen — but do not give them answers. Ask questions to get them thinking about the situation from a different perspective, but do not try to solve it for them. It is hard, but this is all part of growing up.
They will stay up all night with a room full of friends and discuss who is really running the country/world. That is part of the fun of living together with so many different people of the same age — but make sure they understand your expectations. Even when tired, they are to go to class.
And lastly, the eighth tip — remember that your love is unconditional.
You may not always like them, you can even be disappointed and frustrated, but you do always love them. Don’t forget to tell them that fact often as they go through these exciting — and terrifying — experiences.
Gordon Rode is the former headmaster at St. John’s Episcopal Day School and a career educator of 42 years. He has been a headmaster for 19 years, the last nine at St. John’s.