Wondering how your teenager is adjusting to life on campus? A university or college’s family weekend can be a great opportunity for you to experience this new stage of your child’s life and move past some of your empty nest worries. Use these five tips to make the most of this time together.
1. Plan ahead.
Hopefully family weekend has been on your radar ever since you helped your student move in. Local hotel rooms and restaurant reservations could fill up fast, so plan your stay and your itinerary as far ahead of time as you can. And while you want to have some time to explore campus – and if you’re an alum, indulge in some nostalgia – popular events will sell out fast. Get tickets in advance for things like football games, performances, or tours, especially if younger brothers and sisters are part of your group.
2. Empty out the closets.
Family weekends often coincide with the real start of fall. Pack up all those warm clothes and boots that your student said they didn’t need six weeks ago. You could also bring along any personal items that are taking up extra space in your garage and let your student make the grown-up decisions: keep them here in your dorm, donate them, or throw them away.
3. Go shopping.
If you’re feeling charitable, offer to help your student pick up some essentials, such as groceries or any dorm room necessities. This might also be a good opportunity to – gently – remind your child of the plan you’ve agreed on when it comes to paying for tuition and expenses, and ask if they’ve looked for a job on campus.
4. Let your student lead.
Family weekends are an opportunity for your student to be the grown-up and show you what their life at school is like. Take time to meet their new friends, eat lunch at their favorite hangouts, attend open houses hosted by their favorite professors and student organizations, and see the sights. Not every activity will be tops on your to-do list but seeing your child at home in their element could help ease some of your separation anxiety and see college life through their eyes.
5. Don’t overstay your welcome.
Even if your family is having a great time together, your student still has friends to see, work to do, and classes to study for. Though you may not be used to it, say goodbye on your child’s terms and try not to disrupt their schedule too much. Take advantage of some time apart to see more of campus or the larger city. Go for a run around the lake. Visit a museum or schedule a special dinner with your spouse. When you are together, try to resist any obtrusive parenting urges, such as cleaning up, commenting on the wardrobe, or rearranging the furniture. If your child isn’t displaying any erratic behavior or obvious warning signs that they are struggling to adjust to this transition, be happy that they’re happy.
And when you’re heading home and the tears have dried, be proud as well. You have raised a young adult who’s hopefully on a path toward sufficiency, academic success, and gainful employment. That’s no small accomplishment — which is why we’ve had Paying for College on your Personal Pathway for such a long time!
So, now that you’ve seen your college plan in action, what’s next? Would you like to review any upcoming life transitions affecting your other children? Have you been eying that empty bedroom and thinking about a remodel? Or do you want to get your college student and the rest of your family together for a big summer vacation next year? We’re always on call to review your financial plan and help you prepare for life’s biggest moments.
This article was prepared for Aaron Larson’s use.