With more and more adults over the age of 40 going back to college, this phenomenon is bound to happen: parents going to college with their kids.
It may sound like the plot of a fish-out-of-water comedy (think: Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School), but the fact is that this situation is becoming more and more of a reality, with every spring there being warm-and-fuzzy news stories of parents and children graduating together.
“Warm and fuzzy” may not accurately describe every similar situation, though. Whether you and your son or daughter are at different schools or *gulp* at the same school, it can be an awkward but rewarding adventure for the both of you.
Points to remember:
1. You’re suddenly in your kid’s shoes, and vice versa. When your kid’s on the phone and says, “You don’t understand how busy I am,” you can respond with, “Well, yes, I do.” This situation allows both of you to be on similar planes; thus, it may provide you with an understanding for each other that was otherwise unknown. It’s like Freaky Friday only without the body-switching.
2. You may be their parent, but you’re also their peer. If you go to the same campus, you may see each other, and it might be weird. If your child isn’t quite comfortable with the shared college experience, don’t make it completely obvious that he or she’s your son or daughter, as it might embarrass them. On the other hand, it’s your experience, too, so make sure you let them know that running into each other is inevitable, and that you’re there to get your education like everyone else.
3. Don’t be a helicopter parent. Even though you’re both in school together, you don’t want to hound them about their studies and making friends. They’re adults now, and even though they may be college students just like you, you can’t meddle in their lives like you may have in high school. On the flip side, make sure your child knows that you are there for them, no matter what. Even though you may be busy with your own schoolwork, you can make time for them, too.
4. Don’t allow them to make you feel uncool or stupid. If your son or daughter teases you mercilessly for being a college student or even makes fun of your lack of computer skills, remind them that you are going back to school to further your education and career, and that if anything, you are a role model to them.
5. Find your peers. There’s a good chance that if as an adult you are going back to school, there are other people on campus doing the same. Find these people, as they will prove to be a good support system. And if such a club isn’t available, start one.