College is an exciting time for parents as well as their students, but complex and often challenging adjustments must be made on both sides.
Following are a few suggestions from some current and former Cal parents for making the transition to college as smooth as possible:
A new family dynamic is created when a student leaves for college. This is especially true if it is your first child who is leaving home. Understanding and accepting this are important to everyone involved.
Your student may be away from home for the first time — living in a new environment and experiencing life with a roommate other than a sibling. The key to successful shared living is open communication and mutual respect. Although roommates do not need to be best friends, they are expected to take responsibility for their own behavior and to be fair and considerate of each other. Living with roommates, possibly from diverse cultural backgrounds, offers tremendous potential for learning and positive personal growth. Encourage your student to take advantage of these opportunities.
Discourage your student from coming home too soon or too often. While it is hard to know your student is lonely, homesickness is a natural and normal part of leaving home and becoming an independent adult. Bringing homesick students home on weekends may seem comforting at first, but it ultimately inhibits their ability to develop relationships with other students and only prolongs their adjustment to being away. Although students meet each other through classes during the week, it is on the weekends that many of the important informal communications occur — the interactions on which friendships are built.
As parents, you may face your own separation anxiety, but resist the temptation to tell your students how sad or lonely you are. While you want your students to know they are missed, it is important for you to be positive and to encourage them in this new chapter of their lives. Be available to listen, but always affirm the importance to them of reaching out, making new friends and contacts, and developing new interests and skills.
College life is busy and demanding. At Cal, students who have always been high academic achievers now find that they are part of a community of equally intelligent and talented students. Some can become overwhelmed and unsure of how to manage it all. This is normal. They need your love and reassurance, and time to adjust.
Here at Cal, a variety of academic, emotional, and physical support services is available to help students succeed. Make sure your student knows about “Resource,” Berkeley’s official student handbook, available online or at the Cal Student Store.
Students need parental support — financial, of course, but especially emotional. They need patience, understanding, and love as they adjust to university life. Keep the lines of communication open, and be reassuring when they call. As they become more independent, you may find that the parent-child bond strengthens and mutual appreciation deepens.
Remember that students need time and space to grow and explore.
E-mails work well for keeping in touch because messages can be sent and answered any time without interrupting study. Keep the messages short and interesting.