Tips for Parents, Teens to Help With College Transition

It’s that time of year when many high school seniors are settling into their choice of university and imagining what life is going to be like without mom and dad around all the time. They envision endless party nights without curfews or check-ins. Their minds wander to days without their parents hovering over their shoulder wondering whether they’re completing their homework or procrastinating by binge watching 13 Reasons Why. Even parents are starting to imagine less laundry, smaller grocery bills, and clean rooms. Being empty nesters, or one child closer to being empty nesters, can be thrilling, but maybe even a little disheartening. The transition from high school college is a big one for everyone involved.

Trying to find a balance between letting kids grow up and still helping them navigate their potential life path can be hard for some parents. Some express sadness at no longer being needed. Others feel protective and want to ensure their kids don’t flounder when out on their own. It can be just as difficult for kids though, too. Many parents are used as buffers when kids don’t want to join in with friends, or as wells of information when schoolwork has a child stuck. Some find themselves looking for those creature comforts of Mom and Dad’s house when they’re out on their own.

For parents and kids alike, there are a few things that can be done to make the college transition easier.

Set Up a Schedule For Connecting

Before the move is made, sitting down together and coming up with a time to talk or see one another is important. Just like family dinner may have been nonnegotiable at one time, this time to connect can be considered the same. Kids might be quick to say something like, “Please don’t ever call me, I’ll call you!” But, they might quickly find that isn’t exactly what they need, or want.

Starting out with a weekly FaceTime or simple phone call might just what’s needed. Sometimes that schedule will have to be adjusted as kids get more involved with school activities, but sometimes that weekly call might turn into an every other day call. Flexibility is key to giving children their independence and still making sure they know they have a support system whenever it’s needed.

Offer a Getaway

The last thing college kids want is to think about heading back home, but sometimes having the option is all that’s necessary to feel confident in leaving the nest. Parents can simply mention that home is always available on the weekend or a night to decompress or recharge. Even parents love the idea of going home to their Mom and Dad’s house. There’s something about the familiarity of home that can reboot someone.

College students might swear they’ll never go back home after leaving for school, and some of them might move directly from dorms to their own apartments, but others need that slow transition.

Start the Transition Now

All parents handle the summer after high school graduation a bit differently. Some still stick to the rule, “You obey my rules while living under my roof,” and others prefer to give their 18-year-olds the freedom of adulthood. No matter which stance parents take, it’s the perfect time to start the college transition – when kids are still mostly around the house.

Even if curfews stand and rules are to be followed, starting small with less questioning of whereabouts or intentions could help parents let go of some of that control. Kids who weren’t required to hold a job to focus on school might benefit from the responsibility of finding their first job and being required to pay for their own extracurriculars.

It might take some getting used to, but slowly adjusting to life without a teenager might just be worth putting on this summer’s agenda.

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Erin