Sending a child away to college successfully

KOLO 8 News Now's Terri Russell looks at the rite of passage as a child leaves the home and goes tocolee.
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 3:30 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - We first met Courtney Barnett when she tried mutton busting for the first time.

“I’m on the fastest racer, everything was so awesome!” she told us after the race.

That was back in 2009.

“It’s like a story I tell my friends,” she says 13 years later. “Or, like when they ask me tell us a fun fact about yourself,” says Courtney

All grown up she is less than two weeks away from heading to the University of Colorado Denver.

“I’m excited. I’m a little nervous about getting homesick. I’ve never lived outside of Reno,” says Courtney.

For Courtney’s mom, Susan, it’s a time of excitement. But there is also apprehension and a little sadness.

“I take pride in the fact we did raise her really well. And I can’t take benefit for that. It was a family thing,” says Susan. “There was a lot that went into her… she has her head on straight. And I think she will do well. She will do well and prosper a lot. I worry more about my emotional state,” says Susan.

The two have varying opinions about how this transition is going to go.

“Not much is going to change for her besides I won’t be there,” says Courtney. “So, I think it is going to be more difficult for her,” she says of her mom.

“The thought of it is going to be way worse than actually doing it,” says Susan.

But the fact is no one can predict what will happen in the weeks and months to come.

Courtney has already started packing and knows there will be much more to do once she arrives at her dorm room. Her mom asks questions. But doesn’t necessarily pry.

It’s a good start says those who have seen this scenario play out time and time again with parents who must cut the cord and send their child out into the world.

“Figure out what are the ways to maintain that connection but still help them develop independence,” says Leilani Kupe, Dean of Students and the University of Nevada Reno.

Experts say parents need to start thinking about how they will conduct themselves in a healthy manner during these unpredictable times. With cell phones, it’s easier to talk anytime day and night. Encourage that independence and set a time and frequency of phone calls. And when calling and making contact, ask general questions. Experts say the less asked the more the child may share.

Get used to text messages sometimes at two in the morning--remember the college student isn’t cracking the books 24-7.

Don’t make surprise visits. Don’t be a helicopter parent.

Encourage involvement and making new friends.

And prepare for " The Call”, when the scholar faces the first college hurdle--be it grades, a roommate, or homesickness. Listen, be supportive but let them know they must finish out the semester and complete their work. Chances are the call is simply transitory. The child may have wanted to talk to someone who will listen and care.

Experts say it’s time to set down boundaries and limitations before your child heads off to college. But remember those can change, as the scholar continues with his or her education the first year and beyond.

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