College will mean a lot of changes for your family. Your relationship with your college-aged students will change as their independence grows. You will begin to interact with their emerging adult self. For many students this will be the first time they have lived apart from their families.
There are many single parent families and students living with extended families sending a student to college. Although family structures differ greatly, much of what they experience as a student going to college is very similar. You can expect that much of the information here will relate to your situation very well.
You may have played a significant role in helping your student choose and make application to Western. There is a great deal of paperwork to complete for such things as financial aid, housing, and class registration. Much of this you may have helped sort through. All of this is important and now equally important is to help them with plans to actually move to campus. Our advice is to help them prepare but don't prepare for them. It will be important for their success that they learn to seek out the necessary assistance and solve problems as they arise. We are not saying you should leave them totally alone but trusting your student to make decisions and solve problems will help build their self-confidence.
Advice for Parents and Family Members
Recognize that leaving current friends can be difficult. Encourage your student to spend a little more time with friends in the weeks before they leave for college. You can show them you understand by getting them a small address book for phone numbers of friends.
Be supportive if your student becomes distant. It is not unusual for teens to become more distant from family members as they anticipate leaving for college. It may help them distance themselves from the emotional stress of leaving family members. Give them a little more space but let them know you are there to listen or talk.
Help them decide what to pack. Use our web site resources and sit down together to brainstorm what they will want to bring. Encourage them to bring a few things that will make their new space feel more like home.
Learn about the different campus resources at Western. Residence hall staff are some of the most helpful contacts for your student and for you. You can learn more about their responsibilities and how to reach them on this web site. Western Illinois University Division of Student Services staff are eager to help you with questions and information. A good place to start if you are not sure what office you need to contact is the Student Assistance & Parent Service Center.
Review the "living-on-your-own" basics with them. Your student may already be doing laundry at home on their own but going over some of these things will get both of you in the right frame of mind as they prepare to come to campus. If your student feels that he/she has a handle on these things, tell him/her to humor you. A quick class in Laundry 101 may help them avoid having to wear something pink every day of the week.
Managing their finances can be very different than what they are currently experiencing. There are a lot of new financial priorities to rank as students develop new friends, new interests, and costs associated with classes or student organizations. Discuss each other's feelings about working a part-time job. Let them know what you are able to provide towards their expenses. Talk about a budget, using a check book, paying bills, ATM cards, and credit cards. Students are often presented with numerous opportunities to sign up for a credit card. A discussion about credit cards can help prevent future stress for the student and possible family conflicts.
Cooking and washing dishes is something we do a majority of the time for the student at Western. Your student will eat in the dining centers or Union food court 90% of the time. However, every student will heat up a pizza or make cookies with a roommate at some point in their college career. As a family make a college dinner of macaroni and cheese with a host of other healthy but simple snacks for fun and practice. You can talk about eating healthy and staying fit while they are at college.
How long have you been telling them to clean their room? You may out of routine do all or most of the cleaning around your home. You may be surprised to know that we have students who struggle with understanding good hygiene habits. It can be hard for a student's self-esteem to be confronted by a roommate for having an especially messy side of the room, not regular washing of clothes, or showering on a regular basis. This does not happen very often but observe your student's current behaviors and see if you find yourself having to remind them of these basics.