Vol. 4, Issue 4September 2012


Handling the College Transition

You have dropped your child off at college, and now both of you are getting used to the new normal. You want your child to be successful at college, not only with his studies, but also in developing himself as an independent person. You can take some steps to make the transition easier for both of you.

First, don’t hover. When you were in college, you probably had a land line in your room, or maybe even just a communal phone in the hall. Long-distance calling was expensive, so the Sunday night call home was probably the norm. But not anymore. Now you and your child both have cell phones, which makes it tempting to call often, just to check up.

Resist the temptation, the experts say. You want your child to begin to organize her own life and to make her own decisions. If you call constantly, you suggest to her that you don’t think she can get along without you. In fact, some experts suggest that parents not call at all for the first month or so. If your child wants to talk to you, she can call you. Your goal is to be accessible and supportive, but not intrusive.

If your child calls you all the time for advice, gently encourage him to handle some of these issues on his own. If he wants your help with something, ask him what he thinks he should do rather than giving him a solution. Encourage him to work through problems without your intervention. And don’t call the dean when you child gets a B or talk to student housing because his roommate snores.

The obvious exception, of course, is when you think something dangerous is happening or could happen. For example, if her roommate is using drugs in the room or has a gun in her drawer, you need to let the school know. Similarly, if you think your child is becoming seriously depressed or afraid, you might want to take action.

If your child is like most, you will hear from him less and less the longer he is at school. This can be hard for you, as you watch your child establish his independence as a person separate from you. He might make decisions you don’t like, such as choosing a major you disagree with or dating someone you don’t approve of.

That’s normal, of course. When you went to college, you probably did plenty of things that caused your parents to pull their hair out. It’s harder to take when you are the parent, but making your own decisions—and dealing with your mistakes—is as critical a part of growing up now as it was when you were 18.

Your reward for giving your child space should be that she will grow into a happy, interesting person who has pride in her accomplishments and is prepared to create a fulfilling life for herself. And hasn't that been your goal since the day you brought her home from the hospital?