Navigating the Transition to College with your Young Adult
Many of the teens I work with are preparing to leave for college. Although this is a time of celebration and joy it can also be a time of loss and stress. Both parents and young adults are adapting to new roles and this can create communication gaps, transitional issues, and stress. Here are three simple things I suggest to ease the transition off to college.
1. Set up a weekly 15 minute phone check-in.
Set up one time each week to connect with your young adult. Plan a 15 minute phone call for the exact same time each week. You might end up having more conversations throughout the week but this weekly phone check-in will give both you and your young adult a sense of consistency.
2. Give yourself a gratitude day.
The day after your young adult leaves for college will be filled with a range of emotions. Within a few days of their departure, give yourself a gratitude day. Take time in the morning to reflect by either writing, talking with your spouse, or connecting with a friend. During this time, reflect on the fact that you successfully launched your child into college. Take the time to talk about old stories from when they were young. Acknowledge that you did an incredible job and that you helped you child get to where they are today. Later in the day, pick one activity that celebrates you. Maybe that is going on a hike or having a spa day. Take the time to truly reward yourself for everything you have given to your child over the last 18 years.
3. When you get the first, panicked call from your son or daughter...
Almost every parent who I have worked with calls me the first time their son or daughter calls them crying for college. I've heard everything from, "I know its only the first week but should I let them drop out?" to, "Should I ignore their call?" The answer to this question is somewhere in the middle. Certainly, if you are worried about your young adults safety then you should take steps toward getting them the support they need from their student health center or mental health practitioners in the area.
However, more often then not this first panicked phone call is a natural part of the transition to college. Your son or daughter might call you crying in the first few weeks and say things like, "I have no friends and everyone hates me." or, "I just broke up with my high school girl friend and now I have no idea what to do." These calls are very scary for parents. For the first time in your child's life you cannot just drive over and help them. In this moment there are only a couple things you have to say. These are, "Are you safe?" and "I want you to know that I believe in your ability to build a life at college. You have all the tools you need to make this transition and you are going to do an awesome job. I am so proud of you, and I love you." After you hang up the phone, remind yourself that you have spent the last 18 years preparing your child for this transition. You have modeled resilience, patience, strength, and love to them and now it is their turn to put these lessons into practice.