Thrive on Campus//

Preparing Your Child for College

"Now your child stands before you on the verge of adulthood, ready to take on the world — without you."

Courtesy of XiXinXing / Shutterstock
Courtesy of XiXinXing / Shutterstock

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Summer is quickly coming to a close, and the day that once seemed so far away is suddenly straight ahead: the day your child leaves the nest for his or her freshman year of college. Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were singing lullabies and changing diapers? Now your child stands before you on the verge of adulthood, ready to take on the world — without you.

If you have spent the last 18 years building a strong bond with your child, then he/she likely has a strong inner core thanks to the trust and confidence you have helped him/her gain throughout the years. While this will help your child immensely as he/she ventures into a new, more independent season of life, you are still, and always will be, the parent. As difficult as this transition may be for you, try to focus on making the most of this time together preparing your child for college.

There are some things that you can do now during these final precious weeks and months leading up to college that can help create a smooth transition for your child.

1. Work with your child on important independent life skills before they leave. Does your child know how to do his/her own laundry? Is he/she comfortable taking public transportation? Now is the time to practice these skills with your child so that he/she can accomplish them independently with more confidence in college.

2. Discuss money matters. Colleges and universities are easy targets for credit card companies. Talk with your child about budgeting and share your own budget tips that have worked for you as well as mistakes you may have made. Discuss how credit cards really work, and what the true cost can be of taking on debt at such a young age.

3. Help them learn time management skills. This will be the first time, for most children, when they will be fully responsible for every moment of their time…and juggling college calendars can be overwhelming for many freshman. Share your time management skills, question their classwork and activities schedule, and ask your child to brainstorm how he/she might best juggle these new responsibilities.

4. Outline your expectations. Even though your child may not be living at home full-time, they should know that you are still their parent and you still have expectations that you would like them to meet. Do they have to maintain a certain grade point average to stay in school or keep scholarships? Do you expect to hear from them via phone at least once a week or twice a week? Do they need to maintain a part-time job in order to stay in school? Whatever your family situation, make sure you clearly lay out your expectations for your child.

5. Practice my empathic processTry to have weekly family meetings with your child before he/she leaves for college and use this time to allow your child to share any questions or concerns he/she has about going away to college.

I remember when my son was preparing for college; I remember as if it were yesterday. It was an emotional time, and as his mother, I felt many conflicting emotions. You may be feeling like this as well, but remember that this time is about your child, and your job, still, is to parent. If you spend this time preparing your child for his/her first true taste of adult independence, you will both be able to step into this new season of life with trust and confidence.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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