Move-in is a big day. It’s the official start of college, and it is a lot of physical activity (likely in pretty hot weather). In addition to the physical exertions of move-in, there may also be some emotional heavy lifting going on. Let’s talk about some of the stressors of move-in and how to stay zen amid the chaos.
Your student’s moods
Expect some moodiness from your student. They are about to move in to a new environment and they may have a range of feelings about that: excitement, anticipation, wanting to start out on the right foot with their roommate, some anxiety about how this new experience will go for them, fear, etc.
Their emotions can manifest themselves in a variety of ways: they might be a bit clingy with you if they are nervous…or they might show their nerves by being short tempered with you. They may welcome your suggestions about how to arrange the room…or they may get defensive and irritated that you are not letting them do their own thing and they don’t want your input. They may want to hug you…or roll their eyes at you.
In those moments, try to remember they are likely overwhelmed and are doing the best they can.
You also might notice that as they begin to meet their roommate or hallmates, they may act differently than they have been at home. College is a time for them to be their own person. For some, that means leaning into new things (new identity, different pattern of dress, new room decor, using their formal name vs. nickname, etc.) that suits who they want to be in college.
In those moments, affirm who they are being (and not verbalize any differences from their high school persona).
The reality of moving your beloved child into their new college home might trigger some real feelings of sadness – grief and loss that this person you love so fiercely will no longer be living under the same roof (or maybe that’s just me!). So be gentle with yourself if that happens.
If you are anything like me, you will feel better leaving your Deac on campus knowing their bed is made, their clothes are put away, and you feel like they are ‘settled.’ But your Deac may want to focus on other tasks and leave the unpacking for later, which might cause you to be frustrated. You may have strong feelings that the furniture should be arranged in this way, but your student doesn’t agree. Rather than let this be a tug-of-war, you’ll be better off letting your student do it their way. (They will be happier not to argue, and so will you).
Some of us who are Type A (myself included) don’t always do well with waiting in lines, feeling lost or unsure where to go next, or frustrated that our student forgot to pack Some Important Thing and now you have to make a Target run. In those moments, it can be easy to let your aggravation show. If you can reign that in and understand upfront this is likely to happen (and plan that some extra shopping trips are just part of the game), that might make it easier.
Give everyone grace – and space
Move-in can be like a group project, where there are lots of roles, and you can divide-and-conquer on some of the tasks. You may be bumping into each other, literally or figuratively, as you get your student settled. So give each other grace if someone gets a bit crabby.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is give each other some space – take a break from moving in and have a few minutes to center yourself. Get a cold drink (or a coffee). Take a 10 minute walk. Sit in the lounge of their residential community and check your email, or check in at the office, or with other kids still at home. Do whatever you need to do to bring some calm and peace to your day.
Before you leave
You may want to write a note or a card and hide it in your student’s room – maybe under their pillow, or underneath the top layer of clothing in one of their drawers – for them to find later. Tell them you love them, you are proud of them, you trust them, you know there will be ups and downs as they adjust to college, but they’ve got this! If you can’t be at move-in, send that kind of note to their student mailbox at Wake for them to get in the first few days on campus. Your words of love and affirmation will be treasured – even if they don’t tell you that directly 🙂