4 Steps to Ease the Transition to College

Your Parenting Survival Guide to help with your child’s transition to college.

As parents, you’ve spent the last 18 years focusing on how to protect your children from getting into danger, not talking to strangers, and to depend on you in difficult moments. As your children go off to college, the tables turn to being independent, meeting new people on campus, and learning from mistakes.

This is a perfect time to connect with your children and start conversations that are supportive, open-ended, and come from a place of curiosity and understanding. It’s important to allow them to form their own opinions and express feelings openly while they still feel supported from home.

Here are four steps to help while you help with your child’s transition to college.

1. Teach Life Lessons

Make a point to teach life lessons that academics do not include. How to do laundry, how to pay bills and manage money, how to advocate for oneself, how to cook, and how to engage in healthy relationships are important skills to learn. Undergrads may face various mental health and life stressors while away. Young adults need to learn and develop the coping skills necessary for independence and struggle. You can role model how to express feelings and needs, how to practice self-love, how to set boundaries, and how to advocate for yourself. These will be important tools for them as they transition into adulthood.

You can role model how to express feelings and needs, how to practice self-love, how to set boundaries, and how to advocate for yourself.

2. Practice Active Listening

The excitement and nervousness of change can cause some waves of emotion as teens start building autonomy and finding their voice. Instead of engaging in this conflictual dance of power, try to utilize this opportunity to ask questions, practice active listening, and begin the steps of respectful negotiation.

The pain of our kids leaving for college is an emotional cocktail of worry and sadness. We get concerned about how our kids will acclimate to their new setting. Many parents find the transition much easier once they know their kids are settled.

3. Seek Help When Needed

Life stage changes are hard. If you find that you or your teen is having trouble communicating, need support with coping skills, experience increased conflict with boundaries, or you just feel overwhelmed with it all, seeking a counselor can be a helpful resource. Counselors can help you troubleshoot and provide support during this transitional phase to improve your relationship, increase self-esteem, and reduce stress.

Another wonderful resource is to connect with the college campus counseling office and establish a positive relationship. This will allow students to have a safe and supportive space to go to during any stressful moments that the academic year may bring.

4. Plan Some Quality Time Together

During your child’s transition into young adulthood, practicing stress management skills and building a strong foundation for family relationships can be especially useful. Notice moments for celebration and moments for deeper conversations.

You may find yourself wanting to soak up all the time you have with your children, yet also respecting their busy social calendar. Plan for quality family time with activities that feel fulfilling and bonding. Enjoy the expanding relationship you develop with your children as they transition into young adults.

Written by Megan Lewis, MS, LMHC, CMHS – PRO Medical Counselor

Megan specializes in the treatment of trauma, grief and loss, anxiety, depression, LGBTQ, cultural stressors, relationship and family conflict, body image and self-esteem. She was raised internationally which gives her the passion and experience for working with a variety of cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, and beliefs. She utilizes creative expression and mindfulness techniques to work with adults, children, and families. For more information about Megan, you can find it here.

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