Working in college ministry now for over four years, I’ve had many college girls and mothers ask me something like, “Okay what do we need to pack that we are probably forgetting?” I have my go-to answers like First Aid Kits, and wrinkle release spray. But if I am honest, I never receive the question of what to teach her before she goes.
I imagine that is a question a parent’s heart holds from the very beginning of raising her daughter. I imagine there are moments she sees how strong and brave she is and you wonder how you crafted that little person. Yet I can imagine even my own mother often had moments of thinking, “Oh my goodness, how is she ever going to survive in the real world.”
So parents, you have made your checklist of extra long twin sheets, sanitizing wipes, and a couple great game day outfits. But what does she need to know, to be equipped with, and to walk in with all her heart?
1. She needs to know who God is and who she is in light of Him.
You may have taught her this throughout these past eighteen years. She has memorized verses and sang out worship songs in the car, but now it is time for her to embrace her faith as her own. When she asks big questions, provide a safe space for you to wrestle these things together through a biblical perspective. When she is scared—and she will be, remind her that the very same God who was faithful to bring her to this point will be faithful to be with her everywhere she goes. When she begins to question who she wants to be, show her that she is a child of God and called to be an image of God in the way that she loves people, works hard, and chooses righteousness. Finally, engage her through conversations about what it looks like to live on mission on campus, within her major, and at her job.
2. She needs to know that you are a safe space.
I am sorry in advance if I preach here. Up to this point in your daughter’s life, you have likely had a great deal of control over what your girl has experienced, where she has gone, and who she has been with. That will change. This is your time to learn to be a coach. You are not on the court with her, but she is looking at you to know how to engage.
There is a pattern here, moms. If you protect your picture of perfection to your daughter and hold her to that same standard, you will be shocked at all she hides from you and all you will come to know in future years. If you are honest with your girl about the need for the gospel in your own life and what you wished you learned earlier (and less through the hard ways), you will be amazed at the honesty this brings and the way she will respond with conviction to walk in that wisdom.
This is a time that comes with hard questions, no matter the school. Begin showing your girl now that she can truly ask you anything. When you don’t have the answers, you’ll walk with her to learn them, and when you disagree, she’ll still be your girl.
3. She needs to know that you believe in her and want God’s best for her.
She may change her major, have a break down over a class, or tell you she wants to do or be something that makes absolutely no sense based on her personality. Don’t use this opportunity to ask her if she can do a certain job or if she ever wants to have have children. Instead, ask her what God is calling her to do and point her to Scripture about how He equips. Then, continue to graciously walk alongside her in this journey.
4. She needs to know how to take care of herself.
Of course you have taught her how to wash her hair, wash her sheets, clean her makeup brushes, and vacuum the floor. But, talk about how she takes care of her heart. Help her create boundaries—especially in dating. Talk about date rape, the signs, and what to do. Talk about the importance of rest and days of no plans. Teach her the difference between a healthy friendship and codependency.
Make sure to celebrate her when she wants to come home and be taken care of. But also celebrate her when she makes new friends and goes to a new church. Celebrate that she is spreading her wings and becoming her own person. This is the Lord saying to you, “Well done.”
5. Finally, she needs to know you still want to have fun with her.
You are not done parenting. Make fun plans that show intentionality that you want to be with her. Come to her college town and take her friends out to dinner, plan a fun trip, come get a pedicure with her before finals week. While she is not under your roof— be intentional to continue to make fun memories with her!
While it is a full and hectic season with so many things to take in and process, do not overlook the big transition that is taking place in her life—her independence, her friendships, her relationship with you. You have prepared your girl for this season her entire life and taught her to know that Father that loves her even more than you. It’s now time to watch your good work walk in the good plans the Lord has for her!
Emily Katherine Johnson lives in Rome, GA serving as the Coordinator of Discipleship Programming with the WinShape College Program and just married her best friend, Emery! EmK fell in love with girls ministry in her own student ministry in Spartanburg, SC and still enjoys mentoring middle and high school girls. Emily Katherine has a Masters of Divinity in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and she recently released a book on authenticity and grief entitled, Let’s Be Real! Connect with Emily Katherine: Website // Instagram