It can improve your relationship for many years to come.
When your child leaves for college, there is such a stir of emotions filtering through you. You are thrilled about their upcoming journey and proud of their accomplishments. You revel at their maturity as they embark on this momentous stage of life. You may also be flooded with profoundly sad feelings at the thought of your family structure forever changing, anticipating their absence, and fearful whether they will exercise good judgment while they’re away.
You may cling to the thought that it hasn’t been enough time, yearning for more togetherness and engagement in quality family time. You may also perseverate over thoughts about whether you failed them in some way. As well as contemplating over what you could strive to do better in the future with them (and their siblings).
Instead of wondering, you can give your child an exit interview. Exit interviews are typically conducted at work. The purpose of doing them at work is to gain feedback from departing employees in order to improve aspects of the organization, better retain employees, and reduce turnover.
It’s productive to carry out at home as well if you want to have a better understanding of how to improve home life with your family. Being an attentive, tuned-in parent helps you to cultivate a home that’s warm, safe, and inviting when your child visits from school or anytime in the future.
How to conduct an exit interview with your child
These are the questions for the exit interview to ask your child before leaving for college:
- How do you feel about leaving for college?
- It’s typical to have mixed feelings. What do you fear about going off to college? What are you looking forward to?
- Looking back, is there anything you regret?
- What positive memories stand out for you that you’ll take with you?
- What do you think the climate at our home has been like? Can you give some examples?
- What was that like for you?
- How do you think and feel about how we all communicate?
- Were you clear on what was expected of you at home? School? With your friends? Is there something that we could have done to make it clearer?
- Any feedback for dad and me going forward to improve our communication with each other and/or with you and your siblings?
- Any general disappointments or improvements you could share that can be potentially beneficial with your siblings?
- How do you think and feel about your relationship with me?
- What can I do in the future that can help to improve it?
- How do you think and feel about your relationship with your dad?
- What can he do in the future that can help to improve it?
- Any concerns or feedback about your relationships with your siblings? How can Dad and I both work to improve those relationships?
- If you could change anything about our family life, what would you change?
- While you’re gone, how and when do you want to be communicated with?
- Are there things that you want us to consider and be sensitive to while you’re away?
What to do with the feedback
The feedback is meaningful because it gives you the opportunity to hear your child’s perspective and actively listen to them. Remember to express that you’ll be receiving the feedback openly, non-judgmentally, that you won’t interrupt them, and you’ll take it all in before you comment on any of it. As challenging as that may be, adhere to it all. It could make the difference between whether your child chooses to be transparent with their thoughts and feelings.
As you can imagine, you may get constructive criticism. Some comments you may hear back may surprise you, and others will be in line with what you expected. You may be surprised, saddened, and emotionally touched all at the same time. You’ll get a sense of what needs to continue to be a work in progress in your household.
It creates a space where you’re able to hear their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. It could help you to understand your child and yourself better. It might not be easy to listen to without feeling emotionally sensitive, criticized, defensive, or boastful, but do your best to be open and accepting of all the thoughts and feelings that surface, whether you agree with them or not, or whether they are comfortable or not.
There is just a short time until your child leaves. Your heart may feel full and empty at the same time. It is so incredibly hard to let go. You may be thinking of the years that have passed, and all that has happened during that time. Be accepting and have gratitude for your and your child’s shared pain because it reminds you of how much love you share with one another. In just a short time, you will let go, begrudgingly and lovingly.
Here is an Evolving Guided Meditation led by me. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for more interviews and guided meditations.
Blog as published on Psychology Today.