Sending a daughter or son off to the University of Michigan is also a new stage of life for YOU, the parent. Whether this is your first child or your last child to leave home, this time requires an adjustment for you as well as for your daughter or son. It is a time of "letting go." Your role as a parent is to understand and accept that the changes are part of the process of your daughter or son becoming adults.
This transition, while exciting, can at times be a trying experience for everyone. As parents you may have fears and concerns that are quite normal. You may fear that the cultural and family values you have worked hard to instill in your student may be lost or diluted. You may fear "losing" the relationship you have had with your daughter or son as they become increasingly autonomous. You may wonder if they really can take care of themselves and have enough knowledge and will be responsible when faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs, or sex.
You might also wonder how your child will make sense of the new experiences he or she encounters and how can he or she deal with them in a productive, positive way? We all make sense of the world through the lens of our life experiences, our family values and history, and our cultural and ethnic identity. All the learning they have received from you up to now is a part of who they are; it is a part of what they bring to any new situation.
Of course, they will need time to adjust to the new situation, need time for "trial and error", for exploration and experimentation. You may notice new clothes, music, ideas or beliefs. You may notice that they are forging a new identity, questioning and challenging old values and beliefs, keeping many, yet taking on new ones. Much in the same way they might try on new clothes, looking for the best fit, they may "try on" some new ideas or perspectives. As parents, you may be in the best position to help them through this period of adjustment and change.
What can you do to help?
- Support their growing sense of autonomy and offer guidance.
- Communicate regularly and with loving support. How openly do you and your daughter or son discuss feelings, concerns, and differences in opinions?
- Listen. Get to know their reactions to their new world. Their reactions are not the same as yours. Your daughter or son is not you and may have different needs, likes, skills and desires than you have.
- When you problem-solve with them, encourage him or her to take an active and equal role in the problem-solving process. It would be best not to immediately tell them how to resolve a problem. Instead, ask them "What ideas do you have? What do you think will work best for this situation?" Teaching them how to problem-solve will contribute to their own sense of competence and self-reliance that will be important skills to have as they go through life.
- Expect that your student will make many changes during his or her academic study. The average college student changes academic majors four different times. It is common that many university students are not able to graduate within four years.
- There may be some conflict, but the relationship you have created over the past 17-18 years are very much a part of him or her and will always be there.
- Be alert to signs of unresolved stress in your child. Experiencing some stress when entering a new situation is quite normal. You can reassure your child of this.
If, however, the stress persists over time and you believe that it is interfering with their daily lives, encourage them to come talk to a professional counselor in a safe, confidential environment here at the Counseling and Psychological Services office. We are here to help!