Kirk Sabine, Kingswood’s VP for Campus Life, shares his thoughts on how parents can respond when their kids are ready to leave home and head to university.
1) Have a conversation.
There may be a tendency to normalize this step, but it is a major one: it marks permanent change in many established relationships and opens the way for new ones. Celebrate your child’s going off to university and talk about it with them. Encourage your son or daughter to say thank-you to friends and mentors, and even ask for forgiveness of some.
Life is busy. It’s hard to take time to sit and talk about what your son or daughter is really feeling—both their fears and their excitement. It is a special time when you listen to them.
2) Give a blessing.
All parents know most of the weaknesses of their child. This can raise doubts in your mind about their maturity and preparedness for university, and maybe even their choice of degree or program. Each year I often hear a number of students recount how their parents were not overly supportive of their program choice. Thankfully, I have observed that many of those same parents have tears of joy at graduation when they see their son or daughter matured and doing so well.
At our deepest level, we all want our parents’ blessing. For a moment, forget about what your child should do to earn your blessing, and by faith, give a blessing. Write he or she a letter. Practice the words: “Son, I am proud of you, and I believe you can do this.” Or “Remember, my quirky, fun daughter, I am always here to support you.”
3) Get an education, not a degree.
Jill is so good at math, and you were hoping she would be an engineer. Instead, she chose history, with a plan to be a teacher. Relax. University is about discovering academic abilities. Likes and dislikes will be formed based on exposure to a variety of experiences. This is the essence of education. Also, understanding that the average North American changes career paths more than five times may help you understand the importance of being educated, to choose a variety of career paths.
Jill is being educated to write professionally, communicate crisply, think critically, problem solve, understand how elements in our world relate to one another, and how to be a lifelong learner.
4) Plan for what this new chapter may look like.
You may be very close to your son or daughter and expect to be communicating daily by Facebook or Facetime. University schedules are full of deadlines and social appointments so do not be distressed if your child isn’t in contact all the time. Or an opposite scenario may play out. Your child was always very independent, but now they call every day because university was not what they expected and now they need your support. Be patient, be flexible, and be wise.
5) Help your child become an adult.
When problems arise you will be tempted to “solve for,” but resist this and “solve with.” Help your son or daughter mature by letting them take the lead role in problem solving. Coach your son or daughter on how to solve problems. Stress is often unwelcome but can be necessary to develop resilience as a leader. Think about what athletes do to get ready to perform at their top level. They actually create stress in training, so they can develop skills to perform well under duress. This is actually a huge part of the educational process at university. University is a life learning lab.