We just finished our first year of college.
Well, our daughter did, but from the parenting end my husband and I definitely felt like it was a first for us too.
We learned a lot of things this past year—what to do better, what not to do, and I will be sharing more of these lessons on the blog, but I wanted to highlight my top three best learned lessons and share them with you today.
The lessons I learned as a mom this past year of our first child in college were born out of an “imperfect” year for our daughter. She experienced heartbreaking rejection, the kind that made me want to crawl through the phone to hold her, along with loneliness and a struggle to figure out who she really wanted to be. Yet, she also formed beautiful friendships, honed her major and thrived in the education she was receiving.
Our daughter, after much thought and prayer, decided to transfer schools this fall. In a future post I will share about that journey!
That being said, I don’t believe any of us would change this last year at all.
It was in essence, a perfect, “imperfect” first year of college—with all the ingredients that make for maturity and preparation for life. That is worth every penny (and there are a lot!).
And bonus! I garnered some “college mom wisdom” through it all, so here ya go:
1. Pain is OKAY. Your child will experience some pain this first year, possibly with a friend situation, rejection from a club or group, or with a roommate. They might be homesick, or struggle with the academic load. They may make bad decisions that cause them to struggle.
Our knee-jerk reaction is to shower advice on our child or “rescue” them.
But pain is good. It is really good. It is from pain that our child finds their inner strength, begins problem-solve, or best, learns to pray. Pain is the soil for maturity and wisdom. When we take the pain away we deprive our child of an incredible opportunity to grow.
Instead, try telling your child, “I believe in you and I know you will figure out this problem.” This empowers them and helps them believe in themselves. They are becoming adults and we need to let them stumble in order to get there.
2. Get off the Roller Coaster
This was a challenging one for me. One week our daughter would be struggling and I would be struggling emotionally right there with her, and then a few days later I was still struggling and praying and worrying and all the while things had turned around and were just rosy and great on her end! This happened enough times to teach me that I needed to get off my parental emotional roller coaster. Things change constantly in college—roommate issues, friends, academics, moods, etc.
The reality is, there is nothing we can or should do about what our kids are going through except be supportive and encouraging and pray for them. It is a waste of valuable time and emotional energy that can be useful in our present life when we worry about things we can’t control a thousand miles away.
And, our kids need us to be calm and stable when they do decide to reach out—not emotional messes that stress them out even more.
3. Don’t Ask Them About Their Grades
I was surprised by this one when the Chancellor of the college our daughter attended implored the parents not to focus on our child’s grades. He expressed how many parents continue to helicopter parent about college grades, which is understandable with all the focus on grades needed to get into college!
But now that our kids are IN college, they need to take full ownership of their GPA. “But what if my child is tanking and I don’t even know it?” Yes, I asked this one. Our daughter’s school said they would let us know if she had a D in any class. I would check with your child’s institution and see how you can be informed.
In general it was recommended that we ask not about GPA, but instead questions like, “What is your favorite class?” Or, “Which professor do you like and why?” Or, “Is there any subject that you are struggling with?” I liked the question, “What are learning about yourself academically from your experience so far?”
These are my top three I wanted to pass on to you because I think they are golden.
I don’t know if you noticed, but they all have the same theme: LET GO.
It’s time to let go. It is really really hard. My daughter experienced the biggest rejection of her life this past year. And had days of sitting alone in her dorm room. I desperately wanted her to come home so I could take her away from the pain. The only way my mom heart survived was being there for her on the other end of the phone…just listening. And A LOT of prayer.
God was good. He helped me through it….and my daughter survived, and is thriving.
She came home this summer stronger, wiser, and more confident that I have ever seen her. Something had shifted.
Like I said before, I wouldn’t change a thing. For either of us.
I wish you the very best in this journey of sending your child off to college! I am walking right there with you.
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