Advice & Features Articles College

Wide Open Spaces

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about

Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out

To find a dream and a life of their own

A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

She needs wide open spaces

Room to make her big mistakes

She needs new faces

She knows the high stakes…

by Melissa Chaiken | Section Editor

The lyrics from this Dixie Chicks song have always given me chills and brought a little tear to my eye. I imagine the day when my first child leaves home for college – it’s not a pretty vision!  I am quite sure that I will be a mess, and I’m also sure that’s probably not the best way to usher my child into his new life.

For many first year college students this will be the most dramatic transition of their lives, and we, as parents, should make sure the experience is all about them instead of about our insecurities at letting our baby go. Millions of children go off to college every year, and millions of children survive – some even thrive!  With a little patience, self-control and possibly a little vodka, you too can survive your child leaving home.

The-Naked-Roommate_107-IssuesHarlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issue You Might Run Into in College (Buy it for your soon-to-be coed!) He has also written The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only, A Parent’s Guide to the New College Experience. Cohen says we are the “new college parents” and that technology and social media have changed the way parents experience our child’s time at college.  Parents are more connected, have access to more information and are more likely to contemporaneously share our college students’ highs and lows. For example, a parent doesn’t just get to hear about the messy roommate; a parent can see a live video feed of the roommate’s dirty underwear on your child’s bed!  Cohen says in the history of time, students and parents have never had such immediate, unlimited, and inexpensive access to one another.  This is certainly good news; however, parents and children will have to negotiate this new territory and see what amount of contact is comfortable and appropriate for them.  It’s best to do this up front before anyone’s feelings get hurt.The-Naked-Roommate_Parents-Only

Cohen says you may be calling too much if…

-You are calling every morning and providing a wake-up call.

-You are calling an instructor to share that your child is sick and will be absent. (Chances are pretty good your child knows how to send an email from a cell phone!)

-You call every night to make sure your child is doing homework and not staying up too late.

-You call the moment you need technical support, directions or help finding something that’s lost at home.

And you may be visiting too much if…

-You earn a nickname from your child’s friends.

-You have a “usual” at a campus bar.

-You know the soup-of-the-day schedule at the college cafeteria by heart.

Cohen’s book is great for gaining a little perspective about this transitional time.  He addresses many other issues such as packing, roommates, finances, social media safety, homesickness, drugs and alcohol, health, sex, body image (including the myth of the “Freshman Fifteen”), and the hometown boyfriend or girlfriend away at another college.

While you’re at it, pick up a copy of Cohen’s The Naked Roommate’s First Year Survival Workbook for your child.  It’s filled with exercises that help students overcome obstacles before they become a problem. Set aside a couple of evenings this summer to go dinner with your child and discuss these issues to get the first year of college of to a great start!

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