There are simple things you can do to teach your children to be independent in college. Some kids will get an early start on independence during the college search process. My oldest daughter was not one of them. I had to walk her through finding colleges, visiting colleges, keeping track of when applications were due, and narrowing down her options. At that point, I wasn’t sure how I would ever get her to be responsible for her own decisions.
The best advice I received was from a psychology professor speaking to a parent group during orientation weekend. He said it was time to sit down with our sons and daughters and explain that they would now be expected to make their own decisions. We would still be available to give advice, but we wouldn’t offer any up until they asked for it. I knew that would be a hard but necessary transition, but one we could ease into with my daughter if we did it slowly. Thinking back, there were some steps we took that made it easier.
Here are some simple ways to teach your children to be independent in college:
1. Make sure they know how to do laundry well before they go away to college. I had my daughter start helping with laundry while she was in high school so that she would be a pro by the time she was responsible for her own washing. No parent wants to get late-night laundry questions like, “What temperature do I wash jeans in?” or “Can I put red sweaters in with white socks?”
2. Once they are enrolled in school, encourage them to handle all their own issues with schedules, classes, and roommates. The summer before college, I gave my daughter advice on who to contact when she wanted to make a schedule change, but I did not step in until she hit a roadblock. I told her that once she went away to college, she would need to try to solve these things on her own, but she could always call for advice.
3. Have your students buy their own toiletries and supplies when they are away at school. This will help teach them how much things cost and how to budget for their purchases. It will also give them the freedom to try out different stores and products.
4. Encourage them to find their own rides home for school breaks. As a freshman, my daughter was not allowed to have a car on campus. I told her she needed to figure out how she was going to get home for vacation times during the year. I knew the school had ways to find rides, as well as transportation available to the train station, so I wanted her to take the initiative to organize these trips for herself.
Newfound independence may be a rough transition for your students at first, and you may get plenty of “what should I do?” phone calls. Over time, they will grow more and more confident of their abilities to make their own decisions and they will appreciate that you want them to do things on their own.