Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, ”There is nothing permanent except change.” Over 2500 years later, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the truth of his statement.
As you send your student off to college, the word change takes on a new and very real meaning for your student — and for you. As parents, we may be so focused on the big changes our students will face that we forget (or deny?) that we are experiencing change as well.
Why is change so difficult?
Change is a word we use all of the time, but we may not have thought much about what it actually means. Definitions sometimes give us clarity. To change something is to make it different from what it would be if left alone, to transform or become different.
Change can be hard. It means a lack of certainty and predictability. Change is necessary for growth, but it is normal to fear that we won’t be able to cope with it. So if both you and your student are feeling a little apprehensive right now about what changes might be coming, know that you’re in good company. The first step is acknowledging that change is inevitable, and then you decide how you will respond to it.
Fight or flight — or go with the flow?
Often our first reaction to something that scares us is the fight or flight response. We fight it and try to stop it, or we take flight and try to run away. We may try to prevent change or we may try to avoid or deny that it is happening. Facing change as we send our student off to college is the first step toward making it a positive experience for everyone. Don’t fight it or ignore it. Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude and prepare to go with the flow.
You can’t control change, but you can control your attitude and your actions. And change is often easier to handle when we feel we have some control and influence over what is happening. Doing something about it, being proactive, will help both you and your student feel good about inevitable changes. As you read these suggestions, think about how they apply to your student, but apply them to yourself as well. You are both facing different changes and adjustments. The better you are at coping with your own change, the better able you will be to help your student.
Coping with change
Try some of these ideas and tips as you and your student respond to the change of heading, and sending your student off, to college.
- Admit that facing change makes you feel vulnerable and vow to be proactive in responding to it.
- Name your feelings and fears. What is the worst case scenario? What specifically may be making you sad or concerned?
- Find the positive. Don’t allow yourself to feel like a victim. Change is good. Keep repeating it.
- Anticipate the change and plan ahead. Is there anything that you can do to help prepare for changes?
- Focus on possibilities. Being optimistic about outcomes doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be happy in the moment. Look long term and see the big picture.
- Think about past times when you have coped with change. When were they? How did you cope then? Make a list of things you did or qualities that helped.
- Be flexible and don’t fight it. Recognize that some stress is OK and go with the flow.
- Talk about it. As you talk about it, focus on problems and solutions and positives, and avoid focusing solely on your feelings.
- Seek support. Turn to friends, family, spouse, or anyone else who may have experienced similar situations or feelings.
- Take care of yourself. Stay healthy and focus on basic needs — eat well, get sleep, exercise. Relax, using yoga, meditation, deep breathing
- Take up some new activities and learn some new skills.
- Find the humor or light side of the situation.
- Trust yourself. You can do this.
- Allow yourself time to adjust. New habits and routines take time to develop. The stability will come.
- Avoid obsessing about the future. Live in — and enjoy — the present moment.
Part of resilience, one of the qualities that can lead to success, is the ability to cope with change. Be patient with yourself, and encourage your student to do the same, give yourself time, take positive action, and you will not only adjust, but thrive as you develop a new (and changed/better) relationship with your student — and yourself.