Well, we did it. My husband and I managed to drop my daughter off at college two weeks ago. There were no tears–on either of our parts–but perhaps it was the humidity that kept us sweating instead of crying. Or perhaps we felt good knowing that her enrolling in college and spreading her wings are exactly what she has wanted to do for a few years and exactly what we raised her to want to do. In my world, we are all winning.
And I have to admit that these last two weeks, we have kept our communication with her to a minimum. We even go–gasp!–a couple of days without texting or calling. We want her to get used to living on her own, although that really means living 30 minutes from where she grew up and bunking in a dorm with a roommate. But who’s keeping score? She still has to do her own laundry, right?
So, what are we parents to do now that we have our young adults settled in? Why, we start planning for parents’ weekend, of course! What? Never heard of it? You may want to check out what your student’s college or university offers for parents’ or families’ weekend (yes, that means bring the siblings, too). Parents’ weekends give you and your family a perfect opportunity to drop in later in the semester for a sanctioned visit. Your student is almost obligated to let you attend–all the other parents are doing it!
So, how do you make the most of parents’ weekend? Here are a few tips to make sure that you make your student proud:
- Get to know your student’s roommate(s) and friends. This does not mean being extremely nosey or critical of your student’s relationships. This does mean being friendly and curious. One good rule for parents’ weekend: listen more, talk less.
- Restock the pantry. Or the closet or the mini-fridge or the snack drawer. Bringing along some much-needed supplies or extra toiletries can be gifts that keep on giving, especially if they can be used immediately. Not sure what to bring? Ask your student before you leave.
- Eat a meal together. Whether it is in the campus dining room or off campus, make sure you break bread together. A good meal, especially if your student is tired of on-campus choices, can provide an opportunity for her to relax and enjoy your company. Wait, who am I kidding? She will be glad to get that appetizer, entrée, and dessert without busting her own budget.
- Take in a performance, a game, class, or local experience. Some colleges allow you to sit in on a lecture or meet with faculty. Or you may be able to see a student musical, artistic, or theatrical performance. Some parents’ weekends involve a sporting event (think: tailgating!). Others highlight the local color or traditions that can give you a sense of the community your student belongs to. Either way, participate in something that is unique to your student’s experience. It can help you get a feel for the campus atmosphere and who knows, you may become a huge fan of the team!
- Connect meaningfully. While you may not want to probe your student with deep questions during the weekend, you should strive to move beyond the “What classes are you taking?” and “What do you do all day?” questions to ones that are more thoughtful or at least elicit a deeper understanding of who your student is becoming.
- Don’t linger. We all know that many students suffer from homesickness and your student may feel a little anxious about your leaving when the weekend is over (or maybe your student will be like mine: ready to see you off so she can get back to her routine). Either way, set a definite time to leave and stick to it.
If you are not sure if your student’s college or university has a parents’ weekend planned, get online or contact the parents’ association to find out more. Then, mark your calendar! You and your student will be able to share a great experience even if you then don’t hear from her again until Thanksgiving.