Congratulations! Your son or daughter will be going to college soon. So how can you help them (and yourself) be ready for the challenging times ahead? You may have heard horror stories about kids who have “lost their faith” or made serious mistakes as they enter this season in life. You may have been one of them once a long time ago. So how do we equip our children for this important stage of life? How can you help your child launch successfully into college life and adulthood?
Begin giving them observed freedoms before they leave. What do we often do the day that we have completed a diet? Often we binge! If a child is unaccustomed to freedom and you have micromanaged every area of their lives they are going to be ill equipped to deal with their new found freedom. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will go hog wild at the first chance, it could also mean that they are paralyzed by the plethora of choices they are experiencing without your constant participation. Allowing them freedoms and observing their choices and then discussing them is a great way to give your kids a practice run. It can be small things like bedtimes, or diet, or even hair color! After the child has experienced making these decisions for themselves, talk about the pros and cons of their decisions with them.
If your child would like to go away to college, visit churches before visiting schools. One mother of seven shared this tip with me. When her children were considering going away to college she began searching for good churches online. Before they even stepped foot on campus they visited churches. She and her husband spent some vacation time getting their son or daughter established in a church family, including serving in some capacity. This way the young person has a support system to encourage them to stay true to their upbringing. They are connected with believers rather than becoming first connected with a roommate or peers.
Research a school’s Christian clubs and get your student involved before school even starts. This is another way for your child to have the necessary relationships to continue in their faith.
Realize that your child will make mistakes. We all do! Part of the coming-of-age experience is in making decisions on one’s own and facing consequences because of them. However, it is important to keep a finger on the pulse of your child and know when to rescue them from their own traps. You can make certain things clear to them before they even leave that if they exhibit certain types of behavior, you will be coming to the school to visit and possibly bring them home. Never allow your pride as a parent to become more important than the safety of your child. Certainly, it would be disappointing to bring home a student for a semester because their priorities have become askew and things have become out of control. However, it is better to rescue them from themselves than to leave them in a place where they can self-destruct. Let them know that there is nothing more important to you than their spiritual and emotional and physical well-being and that if you feel that is being threatened at any time, you will intervene.
Pray for your college bound student. Nothing brings more comfort to a parent than to talk to another parent about their child. What better parent to talk to than the ultimate Father? Bring your concerns to Him. He will reveal to you when you need to call and check on your kid, or make a visit for the weekend to encourage and remind them of who they truly are.
College can be a difficult transition for families, but God will equip them to launch into college life. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, strategic planning and careful observation, it can be a growing time for everyone. One final admonishment to the parent: find another parent or family that seems to have gone through this stage successfully. Ask them for suggestions and tips on how to enter this stage of life.
Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Remember, our children do not belong to us. They are not our possessions, but they belong to God. When we remember this we can truly give them back to their Creator.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra