The Greatest Gift

The following is 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 program’s website.

by Stephanie Martin, President

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.
– D. Waitley

What does life after high-school look like for you as your child transitions to college? Whether your child lives at home or goes away to attend college, this move represents a meaningful separation for both of you. For most, this marks the symbolic end of childhood and represents a significant step towards adulthood and independence.

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.

While we are aware of and address the challenges many students face as they enter this new phase of life, we often fail to acknowledge the difficulties parents encounter at this critical juncture in time. This stage of separation is often defined by feelings of loss, of being “left out”, and having to relinquish control. Parenting is a demanding business that can be both rewarding as well as stressful. Successful parenting requires dedicating one’s life to a totally dependent being to ensure a safe, autonomous departure into the world – often leaving parents behind.

What can you do to ensure that you are fully prepared to personally address this next phase in your life? You are a necessity in your child’s life, but the relationship you have may develop into one based on equal standing. You must learn to regulate your identity as a parent and expand your engagement with your child to treat them more as adult rather than a child. Start by redirecting the time and energy you previously dedicated to the development of your child. Reviewing your personal interests and values will reveal areas of life that you may have ignored. Treat yourself by creating and pursuing old and new interests, hobbies, and careers.

pathBefore you begin an introspective look, let’s examine how you can best prepare your child, and most importantly you, for the upcoming transition to college. Heed the following advice and you will have set yourself on the path toward success.

  • Conduct family discussions on values. Young adults benefit from hearing their parents’ views on tough topics such as drugs, alcohol, sex, and interpersonal issues.
  • Work with your child to identify and connect the necessary resources in their new community to enhance their quality of life. Help them acquire supports such as finding a place to get a haircut, where of go to get medical attention, accessing a local bank or church, etc.
  • Support your child in the event of a crisis by assisting them as they look for solutions to problems through critical analysis, rather than rushing in to save the day.
  • Influence your child by communicating expectations and goals with respect and compassion. Although your input is useful, and may often be correct, understand that your child should not be expected to live your dream. College is a time of exploration and discovery.
  • Be transparent in communicating your advice regarding topics such as financial spending limits, roommate arrangements, visits from friends or family members, holidays, and time management.
  • Expect mistakes and missteps! “Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” Franklin P. Jones.
  • Stay connected. Set up a time for predictable and consistent communication through phone calls, emails, Skype or live visits.
Follow your own path

Joyce Maynard once said, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”

It is now your turn to reach for the sun!

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