6 Parenting Tips For Adjusting To Kids Going To College

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mom coping with daughter going to college

You've spent the last 18 years or more actively supporting, nurturing, and loving your child, and now they are going to college.

Your young adult is learning how to live on their own and manage their own life. And this can be a really tough adjustment for most parents.

Parents need to learn how to let go and allow their young adult to find their way without their daily guidance and support.

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Parents are often unsure of how to navigate this new phase in their life. This change can be dramatic and requires time to strike a new balance.

Questions parents of kids going to college for the first time often ask:

  • Are they offering too much support and checking in too much?
  • Is their young adult adjusting to college?
  • Are they rescuing their child from uncomfortable settings?
  • Are they hovering over their young college student?
  • What is the right balance between loving support and needed independence?

As parents are navigating this new unknown territory of their child going off to college, they can still be supportive while allowing their child to spread their wings.

Here are 6 parenting tips for adjusting when kids are going to college for the first time.

1. Acknowledge that it's hard.

While it's exciting to see your child go off to school as the whole family has worked so hard to make this happen, it's also a time of sadness and can feel like a loss for parents.

Allow yourself to grieve — the transition from a child in your home to now a young adult is not easy. It's OK to be excited and happy about this new stage in your child’s life, but also to cry and feel sadness.

It's all part of a natural growth cycle and a normal change that your family is moving through from teens to young adults.

2. Acknowledge the changes in your relationship.

There are new boundaries and your relationship will change with your college student.

You may have checked in often with your teen. Now that they are a young adult, you will check in less often and expect that they are managing their schedules on their own.

It may be difficult for you as a parent. And you may feel like you're not supporting them. However, you're supporting them differently and allowing them their independence to find their way on their own.

One of the toughest jobs of a parent is to allow our children to fail, make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes. Allowing them this freedom is one of the best gifts you can give your child.

3. Create new rituals.

If your child is close to you, you can plan to meet once a week or every two weeks to take them out to lunch or go for a hike.

If they are far from home, let them know that you would like to check in with them once a week. Try to define, together, when it’s a good time for you to call them.

Allow them to be part of the planning process of when they would like to talk to you and see you.

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4. Ensure they feel supported.

Let them know that you're there for them, but you're not going to smother them.

Let your young adult know they can check in anytime. They may be feeling lost or lonely, find out and tell them about the mental health resources available at their school.

Most schools offer six to 10 free mental health sessions as well as tutoring support for their students. Make them aware of these resources so they have someone to turn to if they are feeling overwhelmed.

5. Offer encouragement and listen more.

Your role has changed — from directing and organizing their lives to being a cheerleader and providing a shoulder to lean on when needed.

Actively listen when your child reaches out to you and refrain from lecturing or pointing out what they may have done wrong or could have done differently.

Reflect back on what your adult child has shared and ask, "Did I understand that correctly, is that what you said?"

Often times, they just want someone to listen to them and not to give advice. They're more likely to reach out if they don't feel judged by you or the decisions they make.

6. Reinvent yourself and find out what makes you happy.

You're not just a parent, but a parent who also has interests and hobbies outside of your child. It may be a challenge to discover those things that interest you again.

Consider doing an activity that you enjoyed before you had children. Explore the local groups or clubs in your areas.

Adults regularly get together for book clubs, cards, hiking, biking, or gardening. Start playing tennis again or riding your bike.

You can even reach out to family and friends and let them know you have more free time and would enjoy some company.

The transition from teen to young adult can be a challenging stage in your family’s life, but also an exciting one with opportunities for deeper connections with your child.

Sometimes, getting some additional support during this transition phase can help you get perspective and thrive during this chapter of your life.

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Monica Ramunda, MA, LPC RPT-S is a licensed counselor in both North Carolina and Colorado, and the owner of Lighthouse Counseling Services and Rocky Mountain Counseling Services. She offers parenting support and family therapy, as well as counseling for young adults. Please reach out for more information on her services.

This article was originally published at Lighthouse Counseling Services . Reprinted with permission from the author.