Your Niños Are Off to College! Tips on Watching Them Grow Up

Posted: Sep 04 2014

-by Barbara Alvarez

If you’re anything like me, you have to struggle not to overprotect your child. Now that they've graduated from high school, like many kids, they may be starting their first year of college. And at least in my case, my child has chosen to go to a school about 4 hours away. Which means my child has to live in the dorm ... which means you (and I include myself), mama, are worried about how that child you've raised is going to get along and survive now that you aren’t there to see them every day.

Graduation HatAdmit it – you kept looking at the calendar, trying to push the days back so Moving Day would never come. But come, it did. You bought the supplies your daughter would need. Adding boxes to your purchases, you took everything home, wishing your little (big) kid was still in kindergarten.

When you looked at your first year college student, you saw excitement and a little bit of fear in their eyes. You asked her, “Mija (or mijo), are you sure you want to go to school there? There’s still time to switch. (There isn’t.) You can get your major down here.” Then you held your breath.

When your child told you that, no, they wanted to go the the other school because its program is better, you realized that you had to give your child credit for having a smart head on their shoulders. That’s when you began (reluctantly) helping your son/daughter get everything packed.

When you got to the new dorm room with your child, you had to force tears back because you knew that, as soon as you took everything to their room, you’d have to leave. Some universities, knowing about ‘Helicopter Parents’, have set strict policies in place that require all parents to leave as soon as they have delivered their kids and possessions to their dorms. Parents may be taken to a separate area of the university and given a strict talk that goes something like this:

“Your child is an adult now. They will make mistakes. Let them. Don’t step in and rescue them. Let them figure out how to fix and correct their mistakes. Let them suffer the consequences. No calling professors who gave them a low grade. No calling the Housing office to demand a change in dorm rooms because their roommates are ‘horrid.’ If you want your children to grow and learn how to become successes in this world, you have to let them go.”

You hated every word of that speech. But it’s true. From one Helicopter Parent to another, we don’t do our niños any favors by stepping in to make things easier or to clean up their messes. (Usually of course…)

But if you have a good kid who has a good head on their shoulders, let them learn and figure out how to clean up their own messes. If they decide to stay out too late the night before a big exam, let them suffer that failing grade. They’ll learn not to party the night before another exam.

If your son or daughter has declared a major, then realizes they made a mistake, let them deal with the consequences – which could include having to stay in school for two or three more semesters. Your child is learning who they are and this might require them to take classes in several majors before they finds a good fit.

In short, mama, let your baby grow up to become a good young woman or man. You’ll be rewarded with a close relationship and on the day they graduate, they'll find you in the audience and perhaps even blow you a huge beso.

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