Transitioning to College: Tips for Parents

Parents are often filled with mixed emotions when their children leave for college. They are excited about the new experiences their children will have, relieved to finally have more “me” time, sad that their babies are growing up and moving away from home, and nervous about how their children will fare on their own. As children transition to a new stage in their lives, so do the parents who see them off to college.

It is not unusual for college students to face a number of obstacles when adjusting to college, such as trouble coping with emotions, interpersonal and relationship concerns, health-related concerns, academic concerns, and stressful or even traumatic experiences. Parents may feel unsure about how to best provide support, particularly when their children are a long way from home.

Tips for parents:

  • Encourage your child to be informed about the resources* available on campus (e.g., counseling center, academic resource center, health center) and encourage him or her to get connected.

*It is important to know about the limitations of available campus services. For example, many college counseling centers have session limitations due to high demand for services. Moreover, students with longstanding concerns are frequently referred to community providers, who tend to have more availability to meet with these students. At Georgetown Psychology Associates we are happy to work with college students.

  • Clarify roles and expectations through clear communication. For instance, discuss with your child how often you expect to be in touch. Since you will not see each other on a daily basis, come up with a plan that will put you at ease and keep your child involved in the family.
  • Normalize your child’s experiences and expect him or her to make a few mistakes. Establish and maintain open lines of communication, and let your child know you are there for him or her.

Parents are likely to have some anxiety when separating from their children. While a mixture of emotions is to be expected, consider consulting with a mental health professional if you are feeling distressed or overwhelmed to the point that it is interfering with your daily functioning.