Time to go off to college! O.M.G! This can be one of the most anxious times in the life of any family, when one of its young leaves the “nest of protection” and ventures off into a new world, a new life, sometimes far away from the family…alone! Teens are usually terribly excited about what they will discover, although some are scared. Many are just happy to get out of the house and away from the rules therein. Meanwhile parents become incredibly nervous about whether their child is really prepared for this moment and they worry, worry, worry! Ahhh, but the blessing is that the young person is never really alone and there is much we youth workers can do to support families during this nerve-wracking time.
1) Have honest conversations with your young people about their next steps, and what they might encounter along the way.
a. For example, talk about Godly decision making. For the first time they will be the primary decision-makers for their own lives. Help them to think critically about their choices.
b. Set up a time for current college students and college graduates in your congregation to talk to the rising college freshman about what college is really like. They can also provide advice and tips to teens.
2) Encourage parents to become familiar with the college environment. This means parents should be informed about the new city or community their child will be entering. This is only helpful, though, if parents do gain information that will help prepare and guide their child. This should not be the source of new worries for parents.
3) Talk to parents and family members about RELAXING!!! When kids step out there for the 1st time, it can really be stressful for parents. They are suddenly really challenged to believe that God is taking care of the child when they can’t see or talk to them. In other words, this can be a test of their trust in the Lord. Faith really has to kick-in because they have to relinquish much of their control and depend on God to protect their child. Note that the worry and stress can show up in places not expected, like grandparents, and other extended family members. Provide some care and support of the entire family. Remind them that God can and should be trusted.
4) Encourage youth and their families to keep in touch while they are far away from each other. Parents should give their child some space to “do their thing”, but be available when they need them. It is important that the youth should practice their new independence, but always know there is a loved one somewhere ready to help out when they call.
by Arionne Williams
Minister to Youth and Families
Metropolitan AMEZ, Kansas City, MO
Deputy Chair youTheology Advisory Board
Loving God, Loving Neighbor