August 14, 2009

College Catholics

Parents, not just students, face changes

By Kamilla Benko

This fall, Mary Schaffner will see her fifth and youngest child off to Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind.

From her position as the program coordinator for young adult ministry in the archdiocese and as a mother, Schaffner offers some advice to parents whose children are heading off to college for the first time.

Step back …

“You have to give your children their freedom. As a parent, you’ve done what you can, but ultimately they belong to God. Recognize that they are their own person.”

… but be there for them.

“Ask your sons or daughters about what they are experiencing. At this point in their lives, you don’t need to check up on them. Ask the questions because you are excited for their lives. … Affirm your children in their goodness and uniqueness as a child of God.”


“The most important thing parents can do for their children as they head to college—pray for them!

“One thing that is going to be [like] home for the kids is Mass. We are the universal Church. It’s very comforting as a parent to know that we are all united in the Mass. We hear the same words and are called to spread the same Gospel each week, just in different places.”

Stay connected.

“My husband e-mails our children every day about things—like sports—that connected them at home. E-mail them about the mundane things, the ‘dinner table talk’ that bonded you as a family.”

Be compassionate.

“You need to be excited for the kids, but also have compassion for their transition. There is a lot of anxiety on the child’s part. You want to recognize that the transition is going to be kind of rocky in the beginning, but things will settle into a pattern.”

Be excited.

“My husband and I can’t wait to have our own time. When we want to, we can just go away for the weekend, and I think that’s helpful for the kids to see. While we miss our kids, we are excited to connect with other couples, our parish and doing things like that.” †

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