Help, My Child Left for College!

The Other 6

When I asked our four graduates how parents should handle anxieties when sending children off to college, they responded, “Well, you just have to trust them!” Easier said than done! Though Mary and I discovered college to be a marvelous transition for our children into adulthood, parental anxieties do abound. Here are some ideas for dealing with those sleepless nights this fall.

Will They Behave?

As parents we worry whether our children will be able to handle the freedom of college life. Did we prepare them adequately? Will they find good friends?

Both daughters shared that one of the anxieties they felt in college was coming home for breaks. After freedom at school it can be difficult having parents quiz you about your coming and going.

While it’s reasonable to request respect for house rules when home, don’t try to baby-sit your kids on campus. Undoubtedly they will test some boundaries. But it won’t help to spy on them or to scour their Facebook page for incriminating evidence.

Unless it was their pattern under your roof, your children won’t stray far under their new one. The moral code you instilled in them and modeled should remain intact. Only as a last resort should you intervene.

Will They Keep the Faith?

College exposes students to new ways of thinking. Perhaps your children will learn ideas that diverge from what you hold dear, truths you hoped to have passed on to them. This can be frightening for you.

I remember once a brief wave of parental panic over something I assumed our youngest son picked up in class. But you have to resist squelching your children’s thinking. Unless we believe we have a corner on the truth, our kids need to hear opinions different from ours. As a father with flaws, I wanted our children to come into contact with others who could fill in the gaps.

While all our children attended Christian colleges, our oldest son also studied two years at a secular university. Some professors there taught overtly anti-Christian concepts. Still, he learned to respect his teachers’ scholarship while not accepting their biases.

Parents must trust that truth, like cream, will rise to the top. Our children need space to process new ideas and formulate their own positions. Remember that a good education is more about teaching how to think than what to think. You may even discover that you can learn from your children and grow in your faith.

Will They Make the Most of Their Education?

You might worry that your child is not taking the right courses and may end up wasting that expensive education. While excessive debt should be avoided, a college education is rarely a waste as it provides a foundation for a lifetime of learning.

And don’t fret if a child ends up going in a different direction than his or her college major. Your kids will be better people for having pursued a higher education because they will have received valuable tools for living productively in God’s world.

Communication Breeds Trust

I guess my kids were right, “You just have to trust them.” And communication breeds trust. So keep in touch with your kids at school by discovering an appropriate type and level of communication for each. And learn to let go. College can serve as a marvelous transition for you to relate to your child as a fellow adult.

Especially, trust God! When you find yourself worrying in the middle of the night, meditate on your children’s baptism, the sign and seal of God’s promises for them. Pray for your children and claim those promises.

Prayer List for Parents

Sunday: For your child’s relationship with Jesus Christ and his church

Monday: For your child to enjoy healthy friendships and, perhaps, to find a life partner

Tuesday: For your child to study hard, find direction, and grow in his or her knowledge of God’s world

Wednesday: For each of your child’s professors, the school, and its administration

Thursday: For your child to be protected from evil and to resist temptationFriday: For your child’s physical health and safety

Saturday: For YOU to trust God’s promises and for wisdom in your contacts with your child

About the Author

Rev. H. David Schuringa is a Christian Reformed minister serving as President of Crossroad Bible Institute, Grand Rapids, MI.

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