When my son transferred to the local university in the fall after graduating from community college, we had a talk about becoming more independent. We knew the transition to a four-year university would be challenging, so we told him that he could settle in for his junior year, but that we strongly recommended that he live in the dorms next school year. Making choices is very difficult for him, so we new that we had to plant the seed because he would never come up with this idea on his own. Or if he did, he would never tell us about it.
During the fall, he had the opportunity to visit a friend of his at her dorm a few times. After each visit, we asked him if he would like living in a dorm at his school. His responses went from “I don’t know” to “maybe” to “probably” over the course of several weeks. This was as much of a commitment as we would ever get from him, so we made an appointment at the housing office at his school. Apparently at his university, students are leaving the dorms in droves to save money in off campus housing. This turned out to be good news for us, because there were many choices, and a single room was not a problem. He actually made a choice! He wanted to live in the dorm where his brother had lived several years ago and was willing to do it in January.
The idea of moving out of our home was a BIG deal for my son, but just as big of a deal for his father and I. We had originally said he would move out next fall, but this was going to happen in just a few weeks. I was so excited that he chose to move out sooner, but that meant I also had to change my mindset from him moving out next August, to him moving out this month!
Over the holidays, we started gathering things from his room that he wanted to take and started buying things that he would need. This pile of things in the kitchen helped all of understand the transition that was going to happen very soon. This wasn’t going to be the same as when his brother went off to school. The dining hall would be too loud and crowded, so where and what would he eat? How would he deal with having to carry a key everywhere he went and would he have the skills to figure out how to get back in his room if he locked himself out? Lots to think about.
When move in day came, it was pretty anticlimactic and matter of fact. We took him and his stuff over and he moved in. We had a plan for everything we could think of and had to hope for the best. The first night was strange. I was worried, but knew he was safe. When I texted the next day, it took a while to get a response, but he did respond. When I talked to him the next day, he said he was fine. We made plans to see him mid week and he seemed fine. He won’t say anything, but he would rather be at home. It would be much easier for him to be at home, but that won’t help him become independent.
It has been two weeks and we are all still alive and coping. We all understand that as hard as this is for all of us, it is only the first step towards independence. It is a time to practice problem-solving skills, a time to learn how to spend the lonely hours and a time to try out new things and move outside our comfort zones. It is a good thing for all of us.