Parent to Parent: The Time Has Come

Amy Freehafer, Senior Academic and Career Advisor

It was six years ago when we dropped off our youngest for her first year of college. So many emotions and so little time to process them! It’s August 2019 and three weeks away from your child heading to Hope College; exciting and scary at the same time, especially if this is their/your first year. This post is to share some of my thoughts around this time and reflect a bit on what it was like for me. Take what feels helpful to you!

Our youngest chose an institution that was 506 miles away from home. It was the right fit for her but my mind spun through every negative scenario possible: What if she got homesick? What if she got sick and needed me? What if it wasn’t a good fit? What if people weren’t nice to her?… The reality was we would navigate it together even from a distance. It was just hard for me to see that. Thinking back on this time, this would have been helpful to hear:

  1. There are faculty and staff here at Hope who are parents. I’m one of them. We care about your student. You will never be able to take the “mom” out of me and that carries into the work I do. Trust that all staff and faculty WILL care for your child, not just as a student but as a person.
  2. Your child will have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment prior to coming to Hope. Talk to them about their results. Maybe take it yourself strengthsquest.com so you can share with each other. I found the language so incredibly helpful in understanding my daughter. It gave me insight into how she worked as a person which helped me speak her language when walking through challenges and successes.
  3. Give it some time. This is a significant transition for everyone. Your child wants to get out there and make their own decisions and that can be scary for both of you. Be patient and help them realize this is the first time in their lives they have had the opportunity to really make their own choices. They may feel like they aren’t good at it and that’s true; because they haven’t had much practice. Share how you make decisions not what you think the decision should be. Encourage them to connect with those of us on campus who also want to help them learn how to do this. It really does take a village if we want to do it well.
  4. Instinctively they may choose to do the opposite of what you say/hope and that’s okay. Even though I counsel around vocation, calling and career, my daughter needed to hear that from others who were “not her mom”. By encouraging her to reach to others, she came back to me for guidance on her own and that felt better to both of us.
  5. Tell them it’s okay not to have it all figured out! Be honest, we had very little figured out at 18 or 19 years old. Your student is coming to a liberal arts college where they will get a well-rounded education that will be marketable in any field. Encourage them to explore their strengths, interests, and what they feel potentially called to do. Give them the space to do that knowing it is a process we will support and encourage here at Hope.

This all sounds simple, but it isn’t. I had to fight with myself between what I knew my daughter needed and what I desperately wanted her to have. Be patient and have grace with yourself and your student. You will figure out this new chapter and relationship with each other!

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