When teens are seniors and preparing to graduate, they are repeatedly asked whether or not they are ready for college. Have they applied? Been accepted? Chosen a major? Do they feel ready to “live on their own?”
While the kids are the ones heading off to class, parents may also be feeling the sting of a new, overwhelming experience —parenting a child who is not currently under your roof.
Many of the familiar roles and interactions will shift as a teen starts to navigate the increase in independence and responsibility that comes with entering college and living on their own.
There are a few things you can do to smooth the transition for your child and for yourself and set your family up for success as they head off to school.
- Start to allow your teen to test their wings. While they will have structure, rules, and boundaries at school, it will likely look very different than the attention and rules they have at home. Kids who have had time to practice time management, budgeting, and caring for their own belongings do better when they are faced with these tasks in the unfamiliar environment. Allow them to practice some of the things they will have to take on when they leave, and resist the urge to step in and correct or show them the “right” way. Finding their own style is part of becoming an adult!
- Lean on your support network! Whether you are getting all teary just thinking about your child being gone, or if you can’t get them out of the house fast enough, you need support. Talk to those other parents who are in the same boat as you and know how difficult it can be to let your child go out into the world without your watchful eye. Trust in the fact that you’ve taught your child the things they need to know and given them the tools to be successful.
- If your child is raring to go, don’t take it personally. College represents a big step toward independence and adulthood, and it is developmentally appropriate for teens to want to take on more control over their lives and start to separate from their parents. If they can’t wait to get out of the house, it isn’t necessarily a reflection on you as a parent or a person.
Heading to college is a big transition for the whole family, and it is important to remember to care for yourself as well as your teen.
Written By: Molly Halbrooks, LAMFT