5 Things to Know When Your Kids Leave for College

IMG_0609Five years ago, I went to orientation with my daughter at the University of Utah.  I had gone to college orientation with my son at UC Santa Barbara a few years earlier, I didn’t expect to learn much because I didn’t think orientation was that helpful the first time around. Looking back, I may not have been that open to the information they were sharing.

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

Second…
A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

IMG_8977 2Third…
Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


What advice do you have for parents of new college students?

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How Best to Deal With Your Kid’s Roommate Drama

Now that your child is in college, be prepared. Roommate drama is a thing. How can parents help–or should we?

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University of Utah, Salt Lake City

 

I experienced drama with my first roommate at the University of Washington. I won’t go into detail, but needless to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. She was from out-of-state, didn’t know a soul, and after a few fun weeks of acting like besties, we were unable to live with each other. I remember her passive aggressive nature, and I never knew what I had done to offend her. But, she wouldn’t speak to me for days on end. Next, she glommed onto my brother and I watched them as an inseparable couple—except she’d flirt with one particular guy behind his back. We ended that roommate situation after two quarters and never spoke to each other again.

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University of Washington, Seattle–my alma mater

My son had a bad situation his freshman year. He and his roommate filled out the computerized roommate pairings at UCSB and they housed together because they had the exact same SAT scores and similar interests. However, the roommate was an hour from his home and girlfriend, had a ton of high school friends with him, and my son just didn’t click or want to get sucked into the continuation of high school life.

 

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UC Santa Barbara

 

This weekend, we went to my daughter’s “Parents and Move-In Weekend.” For the second year, she’s living off-campus in a house with three other girls. She has a large, yet cozy room she’s decorated in her own style. But, inevitably there’s roommate trouble from time to time. Whether it’s someone who hoards dishes under their bed, roommates who never do the dishes, or another who’s boyfriend has moved in for 60 days…things will happen between college kids living in close quarters. They are used to having their own space. There’s bound to be tension as they figure out how to be adults, living with new people.

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My daughter’s living quarters.

I’m glad we were there for her when some roommate drama cropped up. Here’s a few ideas to help with roommate drama:

One

As a parent, stay out of it unless it’s a dangerous situation or may result in trouble with the landlord.

Two

Give support to your child and let them vent to you. Help them figure out what is the best course of action.

Three

Why are they anxious or upset? It may be deeper than what they tell you on the surface.

Four

It’s important for your child to not keep things bottled up, but talk things out. Whether it’s talking in person or texting—just make sure they are able to express themselves.

Five

Advise your child to think things through before they act. Are they willing to live with the outcome of a roommate confrontation? Or, is it better to let it go?

Six

Let your child know that it’s important to stand up for themselves. It’s not okay to be taken advantage of.

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Dusk at Liberty Park, Salt Lake City

 

What roommate problems did you have? How do you help your kids handle roommate drama?

On another note, I read in the Seattle Times that the dorms I lived in are being demolished!

What I Would Do Differently

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My young Piranhas.

If I could go back in time, say 15 or so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.

So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:

One
Not focus on performance.

Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.

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Medals at a meet.

Two
Not get involved in parent drama.

Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.

Three
Realize everybody is different.

Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!

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Signing day.

Four
Not compare my kids to others.

When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Five
Enjoy every moment of the process.

The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.

What would you do differently as a swim parent?

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Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.