From High School to College – How to Help Your Child Transition

Embracing Change

Whether your child is attending college five minutes or 5,000 miles from home, it will take time to adjust. With far less supervision and way more on their plates than ever before, college students can sometimes feel a culture shock during the first few weeks or months of the semester.

In short, moving from high school to college is a big change, no matter the circumstances.

Just as your child is learning to adjust to their new home away from home, you too must come to grips with your new role as a college parent. But what does it even mean to be a college parent, anyway?

The role is personal for every parent-child dynamic, which means it looks different for everyone. However, during your child’s freshman year, one thing is certain—change.

You and your child will experience change in a variety of ways, and the dynamic between you will undoubtedly be one of them. Success is usually found by establishing a middle-ground between being supportive and giving enough space. 

Guiding From A Distance

In addition to embracing change, the following suggestions can help your child with their transition from high school to college. 

Make Goodbyes Short and Sweet

After months of anticipation, the thought of actually driving away from campus with your child left behind can be terrifying. Drawn-out, emotional goodbyes, however, usually just make leaving harder for everyone. Give your child a chance to adjust and process their newfound independence by keeping your goodbyes simple and letting your child spread their wings

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Make sure your child knows you are available as a resource if needed. For many college freshmen, a cold reality sets in when they realize it is up to them to do laundry, buy toilet paper, and make their dinner — even if it is just mac and cheese!

Don’t be surprised if your phone rings more now than ever before. This is likely the sound of your child realizing just how much you have done for them over the last 18 years.

Teach Your Child to Embrace Failure

College years are typically anything but smooth sailing. Over the course of their college career, your child will likely face challenges and disappointments both personally and academically.

One of the best things you can do as a parent is to teach your children to be resilient and to learn from their failures. A bad breakup, fight with a roommate, bombed midterm exam, or intimidating coursework have the potential to rock your child’s world. Yet, if they are prepared to meet the challenges of life, they will not be derailed for long.  

Set Clear Expectations

Before your child even leaves high school, make discussing expectations a priority.

What are your hopes for your child’s grades, particularly if you are helping pay their tuition? Do you expect your child to work? Are they welcome to visit home whenever they like? Does your child already have a major and career path in mind, or is there room for exploration?

Knowing expectations early will set everyone up for success before classes even begin.

It is natural to struggle with the adjustment after your child leaves for college. If you feel you need support, parenting counseling can help you bridge the gap between sadness and success. You can learn to deal with your feelings in a healthy, constructive way.