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Launching Part 1 - Prepare for Change


Article Written by: Tara L. Hart - Staff Psychologist - Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic

Transitioning to college is an exciting and celebratory time for you, your child and the family. But there's also a worry that can set in about how the transition will go. The following are several things parents can consider on the front end to help make the transition as successful as possible.  

  • In high school, start talking to your child about their interests and skills as they relate to the work world. Start brainstorming future careers early on and try your best not to dismiss their ideas or interests. It may be alarming for some parents to hear that a child wants to pursue acting or music (out of fear they "won't make it"). Rather than dismiss their interests and ideas, ask your child how they can continue to develop their skills in that area and continue to have discussions around other interest areas and skill sets.
  • Resist the urge to do everything for them. As your child prepares for college, assist as needed, but allow them to research schools, fill out applications, look for scholarships, pick out their classes and plan for move-in day.
  • Go on college visits and other special events with your child. This will help you become familiar with the college campus, rules, policies, culture and expectations. This is also a good time to practice being present and supportive of your child while letting them take the lead.
  • Your child may experience anxiety and worry even before stepping foot on campus. These are normal feelings as your child prepares for this significant life change, which may include moving out of state or to a new city, leaving friends behind and the uncertainty of the future. Here's what you can do to help during this time:
    • Provide support by asking gentle questions like: "How do you think it will be for you to leave your friends?" "What are you most looking forward to?"
    • Be understanding of the time your child wants to spend with friends.
    • Take advantage of spontaneous ways the family can spend time together.
    • Reinforce other times they have successfully coped with new situations.
  • Before your child leaves, plan to discuss how your child intends to deal with things like finances, time management, eating habits, sleep, safety, drugs and alcohol use, sex, etc.
  • Become familiar with counseling resources at your child's college in case it's needed. College mental health resources are typically available at discounted or affordable rates at most major colleges. College can be a daunting and stressful experience and counseling by trained professionals can assist your child in navigating these challenges. Be supportive if they decide to seek out counseling services. 

More on Launching…

Launching Part 2 - Develop a New Relationship with Your Child
Launching Part 3 - Don't Forget About the Siblings