Five Tips for First-year College Parents

Over the past few weeks, thousands of first-year college students hugged their parents, spent time with their siblings and petted their dogs one last time before beginning a new journey away from home. While the transition is exciting for students, parents are often understandably confronted with grief and worry. You’re not alone. The good news is there are plenty of ways to carry on and embrace the process of sending your child off to school. Here are a few tips for parents:

1. Find support.

Whether it’s finding a community discussion group for college parents, joining the Gordon parents Facebook page, or being candid with friends about the challenges of the transition, it’s crucial to tap into a support system during this time.

“As you navigate changes, it can help to lean on others who are walking the same path,” says Jennifer Brink, director of academic advising and first-year experience and a parent of college students. “The parent Facebook page can be a helpful place to stay connected and to support others. If you do join these communities, share wisely, in ways that respect your child’s privacy and honor their need to take responsibility for their own stuff.”

2. Embrace the new.

Replacing your kid’s bedroom with that spare room (or craft room or game room) you’ve always needed might sound like a fun way to carry on with a student moving out, but there are plenty of ways to embrace the big transition—without uprooting your child’s space. Consider taking on a new volunteer assignment, finding a new hobby, spending more time with your spouse, or starting a home project you’ve been putting off. Embracing the new is a win-win—it sparks a new wave of interest, and also provides your student with peace of mind to know their absence isn’t burdening you or taking away from your experiences.

3. Let them carry the conversation.

Between new classes and ideas, a new geographic location and new relationships, students change significantly while stepping into college—typically for the better! Give your student a welcoming environment to discuss the changes they’re navigating, and they’ll continue keeping you in the loop on their experiences.

4. Let them go—with love.

Your child is going to make mistakes in college, and that’s okay. College is a safe place to take risks, fail and learn from your experiences. So, let that all happen. The best thing to do is give your student space to learn, but also find the balance of encouraging and supporting them through the transition. They’re in good hands!

“New students at Gordon are joining a new kind of family—one that is ready to support students, care for them and encourage them in their walk with Christ,” says Chase Hall Resident Director Katherine Allison ’16. “Our staff are partners, brothers and sisters, ready to walk through the college experience together.”

5. Pray for your child.

“Sometimes the most powerful form of community and connection is the quiet one—prayer,” Jennifer Jukanovich ’94 wrote in a Christianity Today article. If you’re looking to pray with a collective group outside of your personal devotional time, Gordon hosts the Parents and Friends Prayer Group four times a year—a welcoming prayer meeting where local parents and friends of the College pray for the Gordon community. The first meeting, hosted by Rebecca Lindsay at Wilson House, will be held on October 4 at 8:30 a.m. Prayer requests can be submitted to the group at [email protected].

“Honestly, we cannot do this alone, and God has given us an open communication line,” says Brink. “Just like our students who have to take that step of trust on the high-ropes course or the team building game in La Vida or Discovery class, we too need to fall back on faith, letting go of our kids and trusting them with God.”

By Ellian Chalfant ’22, communication arts and Spanish