The Empty Nest: How to Manage Your Student’s Transition to College
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The Empty Nest: How to Manage Your Student’s Transition to College

Empty Nest - How to manage your student's transition to college

By Kendra Eggleston, M.A. Academic Coordinator, CLE Austin

Congratulations! You did it!! You have just reached a major milestone, and you should be proud of yourself for your hard work to get to this point. You have made the huge decision to let your student leave the nest that you have so carefully and painstakingly built to provide comfort, safety, happiness, and love in order to enter the big, bad world of adulthood.

The idea of your student accomplishing new goals and achieving levels of independence that were previously unimaginable is exciting and what every parent aims for when sending their student to CLE. However, the process can often be a difficult one, especially during the initial transition and during those times when unexpected circumstances arise. Here are some tips to ease the transition and how to handle those challenging situations as they come up.

1. Remember that your feelings and reactions DIRECTLY impact the way your student feels and reacts.

Empty nestParents and students alike will have mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety during this transition. Some students embrace this adventure head-on with fearlessness and eagerness, others enter this next phase with trepidation. However, even the most gung-ho student leaving home for the first time, seemingly without a care in the world, WILL get homesick! So, to the parents who are worried that they will not be missed – have no fear! You absolutely will be! Wherever the students are in their feelings about leaving home, there tends to be a more common thread of emotions that runs through parents: the feelings of loss, uncertainty, and stress that come with letting go. The way that you convey these emotions to your student will impact the way that they are able to cope with their own feelings of nervousness about leaving home. A student who is struggling with homesickness will not benefit with the added thoughts of their parents longing to have them return home. Conversely, a student who is excited about living on their own for the first time may experience feelings of guilt if they feel like they are not missing their parents enough in comparison to how much they are missed. Rather than letting your student know how much they are missed at all times, remind them of how proud you are and how confident you are that both you AND he or she can successfully manage this new phase in their life.

2. Set clear expectations and boundaries around communication with your student.

Technology has made long distances feel INCREDIBLY more manageable over time, and thank goodness! However, especially during the initial “leaving the nest” period, the ease and convenience of communication can often wind up doing more harm than good. What might feel to you like a harmless check-in call or text to your student can be interpreted in a number of ways and evoke a number of emotions. Your student may feel crowded and as if they aren’t being trusted to handle their new independence. Or it may induce feelings of homesickness. As their parent, you have a right to be able to communicate with your student as you are settling into this transition, but be mindful of what is most beneficial for your student. A good practice is to have a conversation with your student before they leave home around expectations for communication: How often will you need to communicate in order for both you and your student to feel comfortable? What form of communication will that be? Hint: the answer is not ten texts, two phone calls, and one Skype session per day. Agree upon an appropriate amount of communication that will allow everyone to get to check in and feel at ease with the transition. Be prepared to honor and enforce this boundary.

3. Be a coach, not a crutch!

Be a coach, not a crutch.You have made a big decision by choosing to send your student to CLE, and that is not a responsibility that we take lightly. We are here to support your student in every way possible, from attending office hours to discussing that paper they didn’t turn in. The best thing you can do for your student when they reach out to you when challenging circumstances arise is to direct them back to CLE staff to advocate for their needs and problem solve in an autonomous way. The “protective instinct to swoop in and save your struggling child is not an easy one to override, but your student will benefit from learning to rely on their available resources, such as CLE staff and their own growing knowledge of the world, to overcome adverse situations. Not only does this increase their level of independence and real-world readiness, but confidence is instilled in your student when they learn to rely less on parents and more on their own capabilities.

4. Trust the process.

I wish I could give you this piece of advice because the process is perfect. Maybe I could also sell you some oceanfront property in Arizona as well? Your student will have setbacks, mistakes will be made, classes will be dropped, apartments will get messy, roommates will fight, video games will keep them up all night and prevent them from being on time to their sessions. If your student was going to transition perfectly into the world of adulthood, what would you be sending them to CLE for? Rather than focusing on what mistakes are made along the way, we continuously look for the learning opportunities that these scenarios provide and trust that the process, as difficult as it may be at times, is working towards your student’s overall independence, success, and happiness.

Newsletter Articles – June 2016

CLE Tutoring

If you’re anything like I was as a parent, by the time your son or daughter is a high school senior, you’ve pretty much got this IEP thing down. You’ve trained for a long-term marathon of supports and services. You can decipher present levels of performance, write goals in your sleep, and remain ever-vigilant to hold the school accountable if they neglect to provide appropriate accommodations. But what happens once you cross the finish line? You may have heard that there are no IEPs in college, but what does that mean?

Jean Handler - CLE Fort Lauderdale

Parents and educators play a huge role in guiding young adults that are entering college. Families should shift the major responsibility of advocating for their child over to their young adult that will be attending college. Parents can teach their children to have a voice and advocate for themselves in the home setting. Furthermore, educators can help transition students at the high school level by preparing them to have their own voice. In college, there are many accommodations that a student with special needs will need to ensure their success. Being your own advocate will help you to stand up for yourself in the future and give you the confidence that you need to become an independent individual.

Keep Calm - Wave Goodbye

Why spend time worrying about learning the skill of how to disengage from conversations when there is enough trouble engaging or initiating in the first place? Because a crucial element of a conversation is not only learning how to disengage from that particular interaction, but also encouraging the other person to engage in conversation with you again at some point in the future.

There are many levels, or variations, to saying good-bye. It can be complicated. There’s the one you give to someone you do not expect to see again, the one you give to someone who has to excuse himself for a moment to deal with something but will be right back, the one you give a parent, the one you give a co-worker. “Have a nice life,” is different from “See you later,” and also from “See you soon,” or even “Call me back when you’re done.”

Graduation from High School

Thinking about what you should do after high school can be both exciting and scary. As we arrive at the end of the school year, most high school seniors are preparing for their next chapter in life. Progressively more high school students with autism and other learning differences are planning to continue their education in post-secondary schools, including vocational and technical schools, two-year and four-year colleges, and universities. This is a new journey of independence, the first time for most students. It may also be the first time when many students will be responsible to advocate for their own needs at school. A student’s ability to advocate for him or herself is critical to succeed at the college level.

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This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.