Dear Barb – Empty Nesting

Dear Barb:

I am a parent of a daughter entering university this year. Someone told me about your column, so I thought I’d write in. My daughter will be attending university full time and taking Athabasca courses as well. She has been out of school for two years and feels a need to catch up with her friends. I’m just wondering if there is anything I can do as a parent to help her transition into university. She has always been a kid who doesn’t adjust well to change, so we are both a little anxious. She is an only child and has never been very social, and won’t know anybody there. I want to be there for her, but I don’t want to be too protective, which is difficult to do when you only have one child. She hasn’t really said much about university, but I am reading her nonverbal clues and I know she is anxious. Do you have any suggestions what would help both of us with this big step? Thanks, Marilyn.

Hi Marilyn:

This is a big transition for both of you. Attending university requires a lot of hard work and focus, and your daughter has the added stress of distance learning. You are obviously ready to provide the parental support that your daughter and all students need when making this change. Communication is often difficult but enormously necessary. Take the initiative and talk to your daughter about how she feels about going to university, ask what her biggest fear is and what she is looking forward to. This will open the door to further conversations. Most students entering university have many concerns, such as making new friends, if they will be able to keep up, time management, finances, writing essays, employment issues. As a parent make sure you adjust your expectations to allow your child adequate time for school work, meaning they may not be able to do as many household chores as they did before entering university. Also their schedules may change, and they may not be home at a regular time for dinner, as they may have late classes or decide to spend time at the library studying or doing research. Initially their marks may drop and this might be very troubling for your child, as a parent you can offer encouragement and reassure them that they will do well. If your child is really struggling, suggest they speak to an academic counselor for further help. Persuade your child to connect with friends who may be going through similar issues. On the other hand, your child may withdraw and not want to discuss school or social activities with you. Continue to encourage them to talk to you, but don’t pressure them, as that may push them away. Make sure that they know you are there to support them, if and when necessary. Basically encourage your daughter to do her best, while giving her the space she needs to find her own balance. Thanks for your great question Marilyn; I’m sure many parents share similar concerns at this time of year.

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Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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