The Resident Therapist: 3 Tips for Move-In Day as a Parent

Well it has ensued. And by “it” I mean the chaos, yelling, impatience, tears, smiles, and nerves of college move – in. Although this year, I have gotten to see a completely different side of it.

Now my parents have lived in and around college life since they were each dropped off at Virginia Tech by their parents many (sorry, ‘a couple’) years ago.  Last year when I they left me standing in my room all alone, I knew they were sad to see me go, but excited to see what the next few months had in store for me.  They knew this was the natural progression of life and that their little girl would be okay.  Therefore, I was a little sad to see them go (along with feelings of insane elation of course).  After witnessing ONE move-in day as a Resident Assistant, I can tell you that is not the typical reaction for a college freshman.  All of my girlies who moved in today seemed a little bit too excited and relieved to see their parents walk out the door…

I am not a parent, and I do not have any experience in sending my child off to college. However, I do feel like I have some authority to offer a few pieces of advice for this (apparently) very traumatic day.

Make the day about your son/daughter.  Think of today like a wedding: while you may be experiencing some strong emotions yourself, the only person who matters is the person moving into their new home.  Do everything in your power to make this the best, happiest, and relaxed day of their life.  Today, there was a group of three girls who literally locked their moms out of the room because their moms were trying to decide everything for the girls.  Later, I heard them saying “I promise I am not like my mom, I promise! Please don’t think I’m like her!” Don’t let that be your child. Wouldn’t you rather your child be sad to see their loving parent who they admire leave than be locking you out without so much as a goodbye hug? Let them begin this new stage in life on a happy note!

Trust their opinions. I know this is the last day that you will be able to have a significant say in your son/daughter’s life for a while and you want to cope by becoming an overprotective, possessive, controlling maniac that you won’t recognize when you get home, but you have to remember that you (hopefully) raised them to make smart decisions.  They got into college. Clearly, they will be able to make their bed and arrange furniture in a way they like.  Plus, they are going to have to survive without you until Thanksgiving anyway.

Don’t scare away potential friends. Okay, Marie rant is about to begin. There were way too many dads trying to scare all the boys in the building away from even looking at their daughter.  I had a dad go down the entire boy’s side of the hallway and tell them not to go into the girls’ half of the hall. Seriously? You have no control of this floor, sir. (offense intended) The university isn’t required to tell you ANYTHING about your daughter if she doesn’t give us permission. You aren’t even allowed to enter the building without her consent, let alone tell other residents what to do.  Also, mom’s you are not off the hook!  DO NOT TRY TO MAKE FRIENDS FOR YOUR CHILD. YOU ARE LEAVING THE BUILDING TODAY. It does not matter how many people on the floor you meet! You could know everyone’s name, hometown, zodiac sign, and blood type – it will not help your child make friends when you leave.  If anything, you’ve just ruined the chance for your child to overcome the startling first impression you’ve made. Bottom line: your child has 4 years to make friends, it is not your responsibility to decide who they are on the first day.

I guess I never fully realized how horrible this day could be for some new college students. Of course, everyone’s experience will be different (like I said, I had a very positive move-in day both years).  Some parents are better at this than others and I do not know everyone’s history.  What I can say is that unfortunately, today I have already had to calm down a couple of crying mothers, angry fathers, and emotionally scarred residents.  For my sanity, I beg that you consider the 3 tips above.  I would like to officially petition to change my job title from Resident Assistant to Resident Therapist, at least for the first 3 days of move-in.

All I can do is pray that tomorrow is less crazy because my returning students are coming!

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