Preparing for Your Child's Move to College

This is a time of change for your family. Your child is facing independence, and you are realizing that your child is becoming an adult. You’re excited — and maybe a little anxious. You have many practical things to think about, and some emotions to work through, as you get ready to give your child advice and encouragement.

Your Child’s Feelings

During the spring, seniors often begin testing their independence and acting out because they’re uneasy about separating from home, friends and family. They want to live out their carefree final months as seniors. Yet they are also worried about not getting everything right as they prepare for college.

To help with these worries, try giving your child a little more independence. Showing your confidence in your child’s abilities can help ease any misgivings.

Assure your child, too, that it’s normal to have concerns about the future, and that new things are often scary at first. Then they become comfortable and familiar. Make a list of your child’s worries and what you both can do to ease them.

Your Feelings

Recognize this is also a difficult time for you. You may be having mixed feelings about your child leaving home. Make another list — of your worries — and what steps you can take to reduce them. Talk with friends who've been through the same transition and learn how they coped.

This is also a tough time for siblings. The structure of the family is changing and they need your attention and reassurances, too. Discuss how they will be affected by the changes.

Practical Skills

Teaching your child new life skills for college can help you both feel that you’re doing something constructive. Your child needs to know how to open a bank account, balance a checkbook, use credit cards and pay bills. It’s important that your child can do laundry and knows a few housecleaning basics. Teach your child how to prepare a few simple family recipes — a great way to evoke memories of home.

Health and Safety

It’s also essential that you sit down with your child and discuss making safe choices. The independence your child now faces can be overwhelming, and some advice from you can go a long way.

Discuss the things your child can do to stay healthy, such as eating well, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol use and avoiding drugs.

Physical safety is another important topic. Your child will be in an unfamiliar location. Talk about why people in a new place or situation should always be aware of their surroundings. Remind your child that it’s important to learn where it’s safe to walk or drive, especially at night.

You might also want to talk about the social environment and pressures your child might face. College life may offer temptations to party and stay up all night, which can impact health and academic performance. The best ways to meet and choose new friends, and potential dating partners, is worth discussing.

Transitioning to Campus

Well before the departure date, work out how to get your child to college. Some students are driven to campus by their family; others make the journey alone.

If you accompany your child, be prepared to leave that day as soon as your child is somewhat settled in. Many campuses schedule orientation and other programs shortly after students arrive, to encourage parents to leave. Although it may be hard to say goodbye, your child has to take this step in the company of other students, not family members.

Setting up a schedule with your child about when and how to be in touch is also important. You might want a call every week, but your child might think every two weeks is often enough. Other students might want to text and e-mail family members daily. Clarify these expectations in advance, so you’ll have a time and place for connecting that you’re both comfortable with.

When you leave, it's important to convey that although your child will be missed, this is the start of a new adventure. This gives your child both a reminder that this change is positive, and a reassurance of strong home ties.


Responsibility topics to discuss with your graduating senior…

BEFORE they move away to college

Jeremy Goldman, NCC, 2012