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Parent Adjustment to College

Seeing your first child off to college is one of the more significant transitions parents face.   Advice abounds for parent adjustment to college, but as a parent who has been through this stage, I have some advice of my own to share. These tips will be most effective if you discuss them together as a family and agree on the decision.

1.  Accept that You’ll Miss Them

If your child is going away to college and living away from home, this is a big transition–for them and for you.  Granted, you may be saying, “Miss her?!?  I can’t wait for her to go! ”  (Yes, that’s normal too!)  Yet, grieving of the change is normal.  That may take the form of sadness or bad mood.  Recognizing it can be one step in keeping it in check.

2.  Make a Plan for Keeping in Touch

This agreement should be made well before leaving for college.  Keep it reasonable but consistent.  Maybe a text a day, phone call or Skype/Facetime once a week, and plan to visit them at Family Weekend.  They will come to rely on this as much or more than you, but it is critical to parent adjustment to college

3.  Beware the Temptation to “Helicopter”

Let your student handle most of their problems themselves, they will be come more able and independent. This article from Healthy Living may provide perspective. You can offer suggestions, help them identify and process the challenge, and show your support.  They will develop better skills if you let them make their own mistakes.

4.  Identify Support Systems on Campus

Explore with your student and ask about resources they find on campus to support them.  Resident Assistants (RAs), faculty advisors, counseling staff, and professors can all be great help to your child, even with minor issues, which is a good place to start.  The sooner your child is aware of their potential, the better.  At the very least, these people are there as mentors and connections.

5.  Recognize when the “honeymoon” is over

Typically, once the fun Freshmen Orientation week is over, freshmen experience a bit of a let-down, but a more significant time of doubt is about six weeks into the term.  It is fairly normal for students to feel some disappointment and disillusionment after their first round of grades have come out.  It’s an important time to encourage some problem solving and persistence.  If you’re wondering what’s “normal” anxiety, check out this article.

Watch this space or visit My College Planning Team’s website for more thoughts on parent adjustment to college. My next series of tips will address setting expectations with your student.

Stephanie Kennedy

Stephanie Kennedy is president of Kennedy Educational Services and co-founder of My College Planning Team. Stephanie holds a Masters in Counseling and College Student Development. A former admissions counselor, she has read hundreds of college applications and assisted thousands of students in their college adjustment and educational path. With her hands-on perspective, she guides students and families in a successful college search that goes far beyond the acceptance letter.

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