Vincent Quaglia still remembers his mom helping him move to campus four years ago from Lindenhurst, New York, to start his freshman year.
“She introduced herself to all my floormates and repeatedly asked me if I had everything I needed,” said Quaglia, who recently graduated from the University of Miami with a major in history, political science and criminology. “It was a nice gesture but also a little overwhelming.”
The day his mom left him to start his life at UM is still vivid, Quaglia said. He recounted what many incoming freshmen will experience over the next week – the mixed and often confusing feelings students and parents will have when the move-in rush is over, the books and supplies have been bought and the final “welcome reception” has been attended.
Parents will have a ton of postpartum worries, said Kimberly Martin, assistant director of Outreach Services and a therapist at the university’s counseling center.
Prior to moving in, Martin “encourages parents to have honest conversations about any feelings or thoughts they’re having around their child going to college.”
She suggests that parents give their children space while packing so they gradually feel more independent.
“Empower them to ask for help rather than just intruding,” Martin said.
Tanvi Bafna, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, agrees and advises parents to be “level-headed.”
“Plan as much as possible by making lists and packing with your child before move-in day,” Bafna said. “This allows everyone to be more relaxed.”
During orientation week, the Counseling Center provides sessions for families to help them cope with the transition. Martin, who joined the Counseling Center staff in 2010, said families prepare for the “big day” in different ways, but she suggests that parents play more of a background role to allow their sons or daughters to meet new people.
However, Martin says that space is not the best way to transition for all students.
“If a student has a need for their parents to be next to them, they should respect that and recognize that there are some people who need more time to separate from their family,” Martin said.
The Rev. Phillip Tran said there is a reason why college is when parents worry most.
“It is when we decide what kind of people we are going to become,” said Tran, who graduated from UM in 2008 and returned in 2017 as UM’s first Catholic chaplain.
Parents are plagued with doubts, he said, with parents questioning things such as “ ‘I hope that my kids hang out with good people; I hope that my kids make the right decision; I hope that I gave them a strong enough foundation in these 18 years; that these four years of their life are good for them and that they come out of this institution a better person with a strong moral character.’ ”
Martin emphasizes the importance of trust.
“Trust the foundation that they’ve put in place,” Martin said. “Trust the experience and the wisdom that you’ve imparted on your child. Trust your child to take it from here.”
Once the school year has started, parents should maintain open communication as much as possible, Martin said. She said that parents should start with checking in at least once a week, but that communication all depends on what each family feels most comfortable with.
“I think the worst thing you can do is overbear your child with questions and calls,” said Gianna Sanchez, an incoming sophomore in the School of Communication. “They need space. Parents are nervous to leave their child, but their child is even more nervous to adapt to change.”
If a parent is feeling lonely or is experiencing “Empty Nest Syndrome,” reach out and don’t be afraid to call, Martin advised, but don’t overwhelm them with questions or add any pressure about their schoolwork.
“If they run into any challenges, make sure that you are the person they can go to,” Martin said. “If you are pressuring them too much, they might not go to you for help.”
Bafna cautions parents that it is extremely important to always remain positive.
“Remember to say goodbye with smile lines rather than stress lines on your face,” Bafna said.
IF YOU GO:
What: Transitions: Adjusting to Life as the Parent or Caregiver of a College Student
Where: Counseling Center
5513 Merrick Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146
Contact: (305) 284-5511
When: Tuesday, Aug. 14
- Session I: 1–1:45 p.m.
- Session II: 2:15–3 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 15
- Session I: 10–10:45 a.m.
- Session II: 11–11:45 a.m.
- Session III: 12–12:45 a.m.
- Session IV: 1–1:45 a.m.
This story originally appeared in First Impression 2018. Written by Jaime Harn.