The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition

Tips for Parents – Preparing and Supporting Your College-Bound Student

This is a preview to the chapter Tips for Parents – Preparing and Supporting Your College-Bound Student from the book The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition by Tina L. Quick.
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Launched – Like it or Not!


I had the unusual privilege this past spring to witness the birth, upbringing and first flight of not one but two families of robins, one at the front of our house and the other at the back. I watched the mother robin leave two, then three, then four eggs in the nest. I watched in awe as they hatched and went seemingly overnight from featherless, bug-eyed babies with gaping beaks, waiting for their next meal to fully developed, beautiful creatures so big they were lying on top of one another in the tiny nest.

There came a time when I knew they were ready to fly. It got to the point that due to their size comparative to the nest, they were constantly battling for position. Then it happened. I opened the door one day and the mother, as was customary whenever I approached, flew off. This time the babies followed suit, only not very successfully. Half of them landed on the ground and either hobbled around a bit or huddled up against our fence, petrified to move any further. I could tell the mother was in distress as she watched her babies there all alone. She kept swooping down back and forth as if to say, “Come on, get up and follow me.” Eventually I looked up and saw mother and four babies taking flight together. I saw them again as a family over the next couple of days, but then I don’t know what happened to them or where they went, but I imagined they were well.

I couldn’t help but think of the irony of witnessing this event twice just as my nest was about to empty out and I would watch as my last child takes flight. It may seem like just yesterday you were bringing that bundle of joy home from the hospital or perhaps it has felt more like an eternity just waiting for this time in your son’s or daughter’s life to arrive, but either way, it is here. Just like that mother robin, you have been preparing your student their entire lifetime for this day. Since the moment they were born, you have been teaching them to become independent. You’ve weaned them off the bottle or breast and taught them to hold their own cup, feed and dress themselves, use the potty alone, share their toys, be a good friend, be socially responsible, and on and on.

While the task of parenting never ends we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as having to constantly be scanning the horizon for potential deterrents to our child’s well-being and future aspirations. Like the mother robin that hovered over her nest while the babies were in it, but watched from a distance as they spread their wings to fly, then swooped down to help until they could fly on their own, our hovering days are over, but our children still need us to watch from the sidelines. Armed with the knowledge and wisdom we have been able to impart over the last 17 or 18 short years, we are preparing to send our offspring into the big world to venture forward as an independent adult to begin building his or her own arsenal of personal experience. There is no doubt about it – this is scary stuff.

Our parenting will be taken to all new levels. Our children will continue to need us but in an entirely different way. They need us to be there when things are overwhelming, chaotic, confusing, or like the baby robins, when they stumble and are uncertain. They are not always going to ask for advice as much as they just want someone to listen to them, especially when they don’t have that new best friend yet to share things with. On average, I received four phone calls a day for the first three weeks of my daughter’s first semester at college. While she felt guilty calling so often, I reassured her that I loved hearing from her. Once she began to settle in and find friends and activities, the phone calls became less and less frequent.

Some of us will have difficulty resisting the urge to be helicopter parents and continue to hover over our children. Others of us will gleefully send them off on their way as responsible adults and begin to carve out new lives for ourselves by making plans to travel more or begin a new career. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle, feeling simultaneously exhilarated and anxious about the launch. I felt as though my heart was being pulled out of my chest when my first daughter left for college. When it was my middle daughter’s turn, it was difficult but not quite so intense.

Granted some of that was due to the fact that she was going to the same school as her older sister and overlapping by two years. Once I had adjusted to that transition, I started asking, “Now how much longer before the last one leaves?” Not to be crass about it but I knew both my daughters and I had survived this separation and I was becoming rather skilled at this long distance parenting thing, so I was no longer anxious about surviving the empty nest. However, as I write this, I am hit head-on with the impending life transition of having no more children at home. I suddenly realize it is going to be more difficult than I had anticipated at that time.

That being said, it is important to note that our children are not the only ones going through transition. Dave Pollock’s transition model applies to parents at this stage in their life as well, whether they will be empty nesters or not. You too, may be able to put a name to the stages as you go through them. Not everyone will go through them the same way and even husbands and wives may find that they are not in the same stage together, but move along at different paces. It is also possible to flip-flop back and forth between stages. But just as I tell students, it is all normal and will pass with time.

Empty Nest Depression


Normal and Expected


Empty nest syndrome refers to the feelings of grief, sadness, loneliness, or loss parents or guardians, particularly women, experience when their children leave home. It is normal and expected, and as was my case, it can actually begin before the child or children have physically left the home. However, if you begin to experience symptoms of depression that prevent you from moving ahead in life, such as is discussed in Chapter 4, it is time to seek professional counseling. There come times in our lives when we need a little help getting past the bumps in the road. And for some of us moms the empty nest is occurring concomitantly while dealing with the emotional roller coaster of menopause or perimenopause (the beginning stages of menopause). How’s that for a double whammy? Who couldn’t use an understanding expert to talk to? If you have been waiting to repatriate or take the next international assignment until your child finishes high school, you have even more of a transition to work through, and it may help counter empty nest syndrome or, contrarily, it may make it worse.

Staying Positive


There are some things you can do to help ward off empty nest syndrome from taking hold of you. I know of one woman who looked at every event of her youngest child’s entire senior year of school with a melancholy attitude. She would say, “Oh, this is the very last basketball game she’ll ever play in high school…the last class picnic…the last school dance,” and so on. She was basically setting herself up for how devastating it would be not to have these events to participate in anymore. If she had looked at it in a more positive light, her thoughts could have led to a more satisfying outcome. If she had chosen to think of each ending as a new beginning, she could have changed her destiny around. She could have thought of the last basketball game as, “She’s had a wonderful time being a part of this team and learned some skills that will really be helpful to her in life.” Focus your thoughts on how well you have prepared your child for the day they will leave home and how much you, the school, the teachers and the students have given him or her along the way. Turn it around every time you sense dread rather than delight and anticipation.

Think About Your Future


Begin thinking about your future and what you want to do with your newfound freedom. After 18-plus years of focusing on your children, you can now take some of that energy and place it somewhere else, like on your spouse, traveling or a new career. Take up new hobbies, join clubs, or go on dates. Or if you really miss having someone around to mother, consider hosting a foreign exchange student.

They Come Back


Just when you begin to get used to their absence, students come back home for a school break and everything changes. They have been living on their own and have grown used to setting rules for themselves as to what and when they eat, sleep, socialize, study and more. Heads will butt if parents expect these independent young adults to follow the old high school house rules when they are back for holidays. That’s not to say you can’t suggest they observe reasonable limits so as not to upset the household. It is also worth thinking about what you will and will not pay for when they return home. If they are expected to buy their own personal hygiene supplies at university, then they should not empty your vanity when they are at home. These issues and more are obviously very specific to and vary much from family to family, but are worth thinking about before sparks fly.

Assistant RAFT Builder



Leave well to enter well. Dr. Dave Pollock’s RAFT model (Chapter 4) helps transitioning students do just that, but it isn’t an easy task. Students may need adults to come alongside them to strategize how to approach:
▪ The uncomfortable task of Reconciliations,
▪ The “I-can’t-be-bothered-to-do-it-now” task of Affirmations,
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What else is in the chapter 'Tips for Parents – Preparing and Supporting Your College-Bound Student'?

Reconciling

Let’s face it – it is not easy, especially for teens, to grant forgiveness when they feel they have been wronged by someone. Perhaps a good friendship has somehow gone ...

Affirming

Similarly, help your student make a list of all the people in this place he or she calls home who have been an important part of his or her life ...

Saying Farewell

Even if your student is not a big party person, work with him or her to determine how he or she will see the people he or she needs to ...

Thinking Ahead

Now the fun of thinking ahead to the future can begin. Among other things, talk a lot about: ...

Limbo Land

The summer before the start of university is a truly bizarre and completely incomprehensible time. It is the leaving stage at its height, full of see-sawing emotions and ambiguity. ...

Friends Frenzy

You may find your child becomes inseparable from his friends, the very ones who used to bore, annoy and otherwise irritate him. Suddenly they cannot let go of one another ...

Pressure is Off

The months between graduation and college matriculation are like being in limbo. School is out, there may be no obligations except to hang out with friends endlessly, and the rush ...

Inner Struggles

During this interminable stretch of limbo you may witness behaviors in your child which will have you wondering if he or she has developed a multiple personality disorder. You have ...

Creating Distance

You may also find yourself a victim of the I’m-gonna-make-life-miserable-for-you-so-you-can’t-wait-to-see-me-go syndrome. Somehow these worldly, intelligent, talented young people have this idea that if they make it difficult to be around ...

Communication – Tons of It!

This stress and responsibility-free period once high school ends and before university begins is the last chance you may have to establish or refine open patterns of communication with your ...

Listening

As parents we need to be diligent about not giving advice when that is not what our son or daughter is asking for or being critical or judgmental of anything ...

Facing Loss and Grief

If both you and your child have read through the entirety of this book, it is a great tool and common ground from which to start some pertinent discussions about ...

Laying Out Expectations

At some point in time before the blast-off to college, parents will want to hold a fairly one-sided discussion with their student and lay forth some expectations. Having this discussion ...

Academic Expectations

Having a goal, such as a certain grade point average (GPA) to aim for, gives students something to work towards and if they are falling short of meeting that goal, ...

Financial Expectations

Depending on how you choose to look at it, it is either a blessing or a curse that our students’ struggle for independence is retarded by purse strings that bind ...

Expectations Concerning Communications

While you may not be aggravated by receiving a twice or thrice daily phone call from your darling in the first few weeks of school, he or she may not ...

Behavioral Expectations

My husband’s father once said to him, “If you think you are mature enough to get someone pregnant, you are mature enough to pay for your own education.” Those were ...

Parental Practicalities

Parents of students living abroad who have gone before you have found the following information useful in helping avoid unpleasant surprises and headaches down the road to matriculation. ...

Summer Addresses

If you plan on spending the summer in the country where your student will be going to school, make sure the college or university has all your summer addresses so ...

Part-time Jobs

With so much to adjust to during the first semester of their first year, even if your child seems keen on finding a part-time job, it might be wise to ...

Parents’ Weekend

If you or another relative cannot be there for Parents’ and Alumni Weekend, help your student make plans to be off campus or have a relative or well-liked family friend ...

Panic Phone Calls

Parents tend to hear from their students when they are feeling down, upset or need a reassuring voice. The good times are relegated to calling their friends. With all that ...

Campus Resources

If this panic phone call does turn out to be something serious, it can be difficult to keep your wits about you, but you must try to stay calm and ...

“What Have You Done to My Room?”

The experts I have heard speak to parents of graduating secondary school students suggest we do not do makeovers of our students’ rooms. That is a temptation difficult to avoid ...

Depression

When I give my “Transitioning Successfully for University” seminar in international schools I always spend an evening with parents reviewing some of the same material and presenting some things just ...

Fostering Global Identities

Repatriation for the college experience is oftentimes the point of what Dr. Barbara Schaetti calls “Encounter” (Chapter 7). This is when our children are awakened to the fact that they ...

Delayed Adolescence and Rebellion

Retarded Development

Although TCKs can appear to be more mature than their stated years, they can also be retarded in their adolescent development. While adolescents are absorbing the values, customs and traditions ...

Testing the Rules

Some TCKs are not as free to test these cultural rules as their home-country peers would for many reasons. Sometimes just when a teenager is ready to start exerting some ...

Off the Deep End

Often the normal adolescent process of testing or rebelling against parental and societal rules has to wait for later and, much to the dismay of their parents, that time could ...

Negative Attention

Sometimes the rebellion is a way to get attention from parents who are so far away. This happened to family friends whose daughter went back to the United States for ...

Anger

We have talked a lot about grief in the hope that TCKs will learn to address their losses, allow themselves to deal with them and come to closure so they ...

Constructive Rebellion

Delayed adolescent rebellion can be either constructive or destructive. Although painful for parents to witness, it is constructive if it serves to move the young adult towards independence. Knowing about ...

Parting Words

The realm of issues parents of college-age children deal with is so vast and varied that it is not possible to touch upon them all. I have tried to cover ...

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"This book is filled with superb materials to help global nomads stay the course during their transition to university. Tina..."

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