The transition from high school to college can be as challenging for parents as it is for their college children. Going through this transition requires flexibility, adaptation, patience, and accommodation. CAPS is here to support parents of college students through our family sessions, consultations, and online resources. Click on the tabs on the left for online resources. In addition, please find below some tips for parents of college students.
Expect the unexpected:
Your young adult or student might shift among different emotions. They may alternate between wanting to be close and pushing you away. Remember that your student is probably torn between sadness about leaving home and excitement about the adventures ahead. Karen Levin and Madge Lawrence Treeger, authors of Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understanding the College Years, compares this behavior to that of a two year-old: your child may run ahead of you, but they will still turn around to be reassured that you are still there.
Encourage independence but also offer support:
It can be tempting to do too much for your young adult-child, especially in the light of their upcoming departure. Restrain yourself from handling college arrangements for them. If your student has a question about college, encourage them to contact the appropriate office themselves. After all, your young adult-child will soon need to be responsible for dealing with the college bureaucracy themselves.
"Additionally, parents should support students' decision-making about the courses they plan to take and the activities they plan to be involved in - rather than make those decisions for their sons and daughters," says Marcy Kraus, Director of Orientation programs at the University of Rochester. "On more than one occasion I've heard a student tell me that their mom or dad picked their fall courses for them - this is often not a good idea!"
The balance between offering support and taking over can be difficult to maintain. Students themselves may want your advice sometimes and reject your advice at other times. During this time of changing roles, good communication and a sense of humor are essential.
Form an informal support group:
Other parents of college-bound children can be invaluable. They can reassure you that you're not alone and give you a "reality check" about your student's possibly erratic behavior (their young adults are probably acting in a similar way). You can share ideas for making your student's last summer at home a meaningful one. And after your young adult-child leaves for college, you can support each other as your way of life changes.
Help your child say good-bye:
Encourage your student to spend time with family and friends over the summer. Be there to talk when your young adult-child comes home after saying good-bye to a high school friend. Have some family get-togethers.
"Make occasions to restate your love, concerns, and respect for your child," says John Boshoven, counselor for continuing education at Community High School (MI) and Director of Counseling at the Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit.
Make plans for communication:
Discuss with your young adult-child ways to communicate with you while they are at college. Many parents enjoy receiving emails from their college-aged children, and students often prefer this method of communication because it allows them to reach out to you on their timetable. If you'd like a weekly phone call, make that clear to your student. Once they are at college, ask them when it would be easiest to get them on the phone. Also, expect the frequency of communication to vary. Some students get swept away by the activities of college life and neglect communication with their families. Others may call every day until they feel more at ease in their new life. It depends on the personality and college experiences of your young adult student.
Plan for the big day:
If possible, give your young adult some latitude about whether you will accompany them to the campus. If you accompany your student, be flexible. Talk with them ahead of time about your plans and expectations.
Once on campus, brace yourself for the brush-off. Many first-year students are eager to start their new lives. Your young adult may be ready for you to leave before you're ready to go. On the other hand, some students unexpectedly cling to their parents. Again, it depends on your child's personality.
Suggested Reading List for Family Members of New Students:
- Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Levin Cobum
- Empty Nest, Full Heart by Andrea Van Steenhouse
- Give them Wings by Carol Kuykendall
- Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years by Johnson & Schelhas-Miller
- The Transition Year: Leader in the advancement of scientific and programmatic efforts in suicide prevention through research, education and training, the development of standards and resources, and survivor support services.http://www.transitionyear.org American Association of Suicidology
GLBT Bullying and Suicide Prevention Resources
RESOURCES for LGBT Population