It’s that time of year when all of the senior high school students just graduated, or are about to go through their graduation. As parents this can either be extremely easy on you, or incredibly difficult.  If you have more than one child, letting go of the first one is easier than letting go of the last one. I’m basing that little tidbit of information based on my parents’ reaction when my eldest brother went to university relative to when I went to university. Either that or I was just the favorite child in my family.

Time to Let Go

I lived in residence for my entire academic career and I was involved in  their student councils, this gave me all kinds of chances to meet parents at both ends of the spectrum.  On one side, there will be those parents who want to micromanage every aspect of their children’s’ lives.  The other end will be the parents who will drop all the belongings in the room, give the kid a handshake or hug and wave goodbye.  Then the ones in between where the mother will help the child unpack and place everything where she thinks it should go while the father leans on the doorway.  Each and every year this has happened and I want to give parents some insight to what happens to their kids once they drive away without them.

You Can’t Control Everything

Whatever values you instilled in your child will stay with them, but the little things will probably go out the window the second you wave goodbye.  Kids with their every action controlled by their parents tend to explode once they get to university.  The first few days they are meek and mild-mannered, but once they realize that their 2nd shadow is no longer present they will start to “bloom” and do things their own way.  A majority of new students generally lack self-confidence because they never really accomplished anything without the interfering hand of their parents.  As they start doing things on their own however, confidence sets in, and they are willing to try things they would normally be too shy or scared to before.

The Over Disciplined/Sheltered Student

These are my favorites, they go completely nuts. I don’t blame the student either because I completely understand!  These students are shackled for their entire childhood and are thrown into the fire of academia, but this time they are unrestricted, free to do whatever they want. In Manitoba the drinking age is 18 which make events coordinating a nightmare because these new students normally never had a beer in their life. Being in university, they figure they can pound back a full case and run a marathon the next day.  I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but you can connect the dots.  These students are like a puppy without a leash at a town fair, they are everywhere they can be all the time.  Usually after the first year of school they get it out of their system, but their grades usually take a dive in the process. They rebound later and settle down, but once the shackles of their parents are no longer present, expect the unexpected.

The “Raised to be Responsible”

These students where worked hard when they were growing up and are usually from a blue collar family.  They were babysitting their younger brothers by themselves when they were twelve, etc. Money wasn’t scarce, but everyone had to help out so Mom and Dad wouldn’t go crazy.  These students enjoy the freedom of being away from home and the work that went with it, but are still conscious of the fact they have school to go to.  These students saved my butt time and time again because when events took a turn for the worst, these types of students stepped up to help out. Not because they had to, but because they felt that they could help the situation and were willing to help.

So What’s The Point?

What I’m trying to get across in this article is that your child will not do everything you raised them to do once they are on their own.  You can tell them what to do and what not to do, but they will likely not listen and “learn the hard way” on their own.   If they fail the majority of their courses their first year it’s really not the end of the world, they will just have to work extra hard to get it picked up.  Their student loans will take 13 years instead of 10 to pay off. You can’t put a price on what they will learn in that first year.

I was in school for five years, and I have learned more out of the classroom than I did inside.  Before you laugh at that think back to when you were in school.  Can you remember how to do a derivative?  Probably not, I know I can’t. I know when I show up to a friend’s house for a game, I bring more booze than I can drink and leave the rest behind as a “payment/thank-you” for having me over and cleaning up after.  I know how talk for hours with complete strangers, and I know to read and react to fast-paced situations without panicking.

Be ready to let go of your children, don’t try to “be there” for them as much as you were when they lived at home. Just tell them that you’re a phone call away and are there for any support, but let them call in the lifeline, don’t keep calling them. Don’t force them into the life jacket, let your child stumble a bit because that’s the best way to learn.