A rite of passage for kids at the end of high school is going off to university as their first big step toward independence. While some choose to live at home and go to a college nearby, many more opt to study far away from home. What I’m noticing more and more here are the families that are staying in Beijing while sending their older kids off to school back in their home countries – beyond just an easy distance from home base here.
How do parents do that? How do they – and their kids – cope?
In families that have been long-time expats, kids might be used to adapting to whatever comes their way, making a transition to university a relatively smooth one. Even so, there are adjustments to be made, and no longer are the parents within arms’ reach to help their kids along.
In talking with some parents who have done this recently, here are some of their experiences:
- You often have to prepare way ahead of time for things you might not otherwise consider, such as winter clothes for cold weather. Kids may or may not have access to cars, nearby shopping malls and other means to go out and buy their own things.
- Many expat kids do not have a driver’s license. While some colleges don’t even permit first year students to drive cars around campus, others do and driving is common. Depending on the regulations of your country or state, older teenagers often need a fast course in learning how to drive, and then the parents are left to worry about that in addition to their college concerns as they leave them behind.
- Knowing you can’t see your kids until Christmas break can be hard, especially when you are used to seeing them every day. A celebrity once said that it’s hard putting your child into college, but even harder walking by their empty room at home.
- Many times universities start later than the schools here in Beijing. Parents can’t always be there to help with the transition into the dorm and with all the initial college needs.
- Having a family member or, in some cases, an older sibling to help the child get settled very helpful! Those with extended families really appreciate knowing that relatives can help out.
- One mom shared a story about the situation forcing the kids to get organized. A child didn’t get to visit her family at Christmas because she didn’t get her passport renewed in time.
- Today’s technology (Skype, texting, e-mail, etc.) makes it easier to keep in touch, although it doesn’t make the distance much easier to bear.
- It’s helpful when a child has been here with you and can picture what you’re talking about – you have shared experiences about China.
- ”Strong family ties just seem to get even stronger when we have to make greater effort at reaching out.”
It’s always difficult to let your kids spread their wings and fly, and most parents realize that once the kids are off at college, they likely will not be back home again (to live, that is). It’s a bittersweet moment, and doing so from afar makes it just a little bit more difficult to handle. However, as one wise mom said, “Nothing beats the feeling of pride you get when your kids go out with the tools you gave them and do amazing things. It brings so much joy to see their accomplishments. That’s what makes it all worth it – their happiness is ours!”
Photo by jamacdonald of flickr.