Letting go: when your child leaves for college

Your Child and Teen
Letting go: when your child leaves for college

Top 10 student fears:

  1. Is this the right school for me?
  2. Will I get along with my roommate?
  3. Will my parents trust me on my own?
  4. Will I miss my high school friends and my family?
  5. Will I be homesick?
  6. Will this school be what I expected?
  7. Will I find a major or is the major I chose the right one?
  8. Will I cut it academically?
  9. Will I have enough/too much contact with my parents?
  10. Will I have financial problems?

Top 10 parent fears:

  1. Will my child be safe?
  2. What happens when my child gets sick?
  3. Will I lose communication with my child?
  4. Will I be able to have a new, different relationship with my child?
  5. Will my child use good judgement?
  6. Will my child be able to appropriately handle exposure to drugs and alcohol?
  7. Will I be able to let go?
  8. Will I be able to handle the “empty nest” feeling?
  9. How much will my role change as a parent?
  10. Will my relationship with my spouse/other children change?

Before your child leaves, talk about:

  • Fears, hopes and excitement – his and yours
  • The fact that some things will be great and some things will not go as she planned or hoped
  • Skills he will need:
    • Studying
    • Time management
    • Stress management
    • Communication
    • Problem-solving
    • Decision-making
    • Self-control
    • Personal hygiene
    • Sleep
    • How to make good choices

DOs and DON’Ts:

  • DO have faith in your child and in your parenting
  • DO have realistic expectations
  • DO learn to use the technology of your child’s generation so you can communicate via his preferred  method
  • DO research the services offered at your child’s college
  • DO let your child solve her problems – but be there to lend support if she asks
  • DO shop together for the things he will need
  • DO send care packages
  • DO book your hotel room for parents’ weekend (early!)
  • DO share “back home” information with your child
  • DO listen and ask questions
  • DO recognize that you will miss each other
  • DON’T be a helicopter parent
  • DON’T call before noon
  • DON’T expect daily communication
  • DON’T be critical or judgmental
  • DON’T  make any immediate changes to your child’s room at home
  • DON’T let your child see you cry as you drive away

What else can you do? 

  • Be aware
  • Be prepared
  • Understand college finances
  • Expect emotional moments and flare-ups
  • Expect some calls in the middle of the night
  • Do your homework – know the school
  • Find support with other parents going through the same life experience
  • Watch for red flags like signs of depression or substance abuse