images (2)The Schulz family will be proudly in attendance at College Park Center in Arlington today for our oldest daughter’s graduation from college. One down…….three to go. Our daughter has grown and changed tremendously over her college years from a shy girl into a strong woman. As a parent, I grew quite a bit too. Here are some takeaways for other parents of college bound children:

Encouragement Trumps Control
As your child enters college, the days of curfews, teacher conferences, and date introductions at the front door are over. At this point in the game, if you are relying on controlling your kids actions and decisions via financial or other means then you are fighting a losing battle. I had to learn how to give up control and replace it with encouragement. Poor decisions in college can have direct repercussions that are felt by our kids more than we may realize. By all means, set realistic expectations but be helpful, not overbearing.

Embrace Change
Repeat after me “change is good” and say it three times daily for the next four years. As parents we are looking for a different person to emerge from university life. Expect change in many forms: changes in majors, school transfers, political leanings, church denominations, friends, and even pet preferences. Shelly and I cannot believe we raised a cat lover (we are dog people)! All kidding aside, it feels wonderful to know that we have raised a strong independent person. Armed with her own beliefs and values, our daughter has become who we always wanted her to be….herself.

Provide Support not Solutions
College is so expensive now that it’s nearly impossible to accomplish without parental support.  However; they need to learn how to convert our resources into the future they see for themselves. If we allow our college kids to make their own decisions they will work hard to make those decisions count.

That brings me to my final insight:

Their Goals, Their Decisions, Their Life, and not Mine
If I knew what I know today I would have made better decisions in my youth, but my kid’s life is not a “do over” opportunity for me. I know for certain, if my college age children model their life decisions on what I think they should do, it will limit their prospects and potential. I do not have all of the answers or even the right questions for the complex and fast-changing future they face. I hope my child’s life after college will soar beyond what I could ever expect or imagine.

When my oldest was just a toddler, I taught her to swim by standing just beyond her reach and encouraging her towards my outstretched arms. My job as her swim teacher was complete when she could confidently enter the water and swim away from me to the other side of the pool. Now I sit in attendance as she crosses the stage towards an unseen destination. An important stage of my life as her father comes to a close.