Parents of New College Students: It’s Your Turn
Every year in late August/early September for the past 20 years or so, I have watched parents drop their children off at college. The range of emotions and reactions I observe is vast, as you can imagine. Whether a mom or dad is inconsolable or ecstatic or both at the same time, there’s one thing that unites them all – their sense that change is happening right before their eyes. And the thing about change that provokes such strong emotions is that we can’t predict the future. No matter how hard we try, we can’t control the coming days, weeks, and months. We have no idea what they will bring to our children or to us.
Many parents have focused so exclusively on the change for their children that they have dramatically neglected themselves. Planning next steps for yourself can ease the pain and help you create an environment of joyful anticipation for you and your children. You can model for them renewed discovery of yourself as they are exploring themselves!
- Your physical self: Many parents find this to be an ideal time to make changes they have thought about for a while.
- Perhaps a new food regimen like The Whole 30 or checking out a Paleo or Vegan lifestyle. Or just make healthier food choices.
- Get to that yoga, Pilates, or SoulCycle class you have been dying to try. Many communities now have free yoga, tai chi, and other physical fitness opportunities, so they do not have to cost a lot!
- Try a new haircut, a different clothing style, or dig out some of the old clothes and shoes in your closet to try on again. Donate anything that is gently used that you don’t want or need anymore. Cleaning out the closet does a world of good. It gives you energy and can jumpstart a process of making real positive change.
- Your spiritual self: Spending some time on this can only benefit you and help you make clearer decisions. There are many cost-free ways to find quietude and center ourselves. Here are a few suggestions:
- Go to your favorite house of worship and say a prayer or just sit quietly enjoying the space.
- Learn how to meditate. Even 5 or 10 minutes a day make a huge difference in our clarity of mind.
- Read inspirational words in poetry or prose, which always has a centering effect on our minds.
- Walk alone along a favorite street, in a park, or along a body of water, if possible.
- Visit a museum or gallery and focus on the art created by other humans.
- Your intellectual self: Now that you are no longer thinking about getting your child off to college, you have room for new thoughts and ideas. What better time to forge into a new subject, an unfamiliar author’s work, or begin writing poetry, prose, a blog, or a vlog? Getting your brain active in a new direction will give you unexpected joy.
- Get out that list of books you have wanted to read, or spend time creating one. See if your local library has them on the shelves or interlibrary loan options online.
- Join a local book club.
- Buy or borrow one of the books on your child’s college reading list so that you have something completely different to talk about.
- See a movie and post a review.
- Start learning a new language. The app DuoLingo is unbeatable!
- Read some blogs and check out some vlogs on topics of interest to you and consider creating your own.
- Get back to or start journaling, writing poetry, stories, or novels.
- Attend poetry or book readings at your local bookstore, library, or cafes.
- Look up the line-up of free theater and opera in your community.
- Reacquaint yourself with the museums closest to you. Find out when the tours and lectures take place.
- Your professional self: Some parents skip right to this one since it is fertile ground to pivot towards. Identifying and taking steps toward enhancing your career can be the most satisfying thing for some parents.
- Review your online profiles and enhance them. Is your LinkedIn page up-to-date? Is your internal company’s bio of you correct?
- Take a look at your Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook feeds. Could they stand a refresh?
- Update your resume so that you are poised for the next desired step in your profession.
- Find your field’s and your company’s professional development opportunities and sign up!
- Consult with a trusted mentor on what you need to do to advance.
- Spruce up your professional demeanor and appearance, if necessary. Always dress for the next job!
As you focus on rediscovering yourself, you not only will feel happier and healthier, but you will be providing for your child a model of healthy self-exploration and change.