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Moving to college often means parents and their adult children move into new routines and opportunities. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

New school year, old routines, new opportunities

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Media Contact: Brian Brus | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-6792 | BBrus@okstate.edu

How much does a morning run around the block or sitting down to a family dinner matter when adjusting to college?

As a physical and emotional outlet or part of a well-established routine, such behaviors are invaluable to new college students — their parents, too.

“Back-to-school time usually focuses on students, be it elementary school or college students. But this time of year is exciting and anxious for another group: parents of college students,” said Rachel Morse, Oklahoma State University Extension 4-H youth mental health specialist. “The transition marks a significant life change, one that some parents may have a hard time adjusting to. Your child is still your child but now they are a college student, with new freedoms, decisions and real adult responsibilities.

“A child going off to college means a different routine for parents and a new set of worries. Daily routines and healthy habits we take for granted are more significant than people realize.”

Morse provided tips for parents, many of which are equally valid for adult children moving away:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. There’s cause for celebration, but it can feel bittersweet. Change is hard.
  • Set small wellness goals for yourself. When a person is stressed, the body needs good sleep, balanced meals and frequent exercise. Physical maintenance helps emotional management.
  • Factor in personal time. Parents may find that becoming an empty-nester is a good opportunity to try something new, like starting a hobby or taking in a movie.

For families with younger siblings still at home, the annual back-to-school experience is fraught with other questions as well, further heightening anxiety. Fortunately, OSU Extension’s Back-To-School Resources page offers tips on several related topics, including how to manage empty nest syndrome for parents and how to deal with children’s anxieties.

As the cliché goes, the only constant in life is change. Successfully helping children work through those changes is something to be proud of.

“A loved one going to college is a tremendous accomplishment. You, as a parent, had a role in that success and that’s something to celebrate,” Morse said.

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