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Leaving Home

suitcase on car

The transition to college can include various experiences for both you and your student. The following sections include information about this new season of life:

What You May Experience

  • The college experience is a significant transition for family and guardians.
  • You may worry about your student’s ability to effectively care for her/himself.
  • You may worry about losing your student as s/he begins to function more independently and form deep attachments with peers.
  • You may experience periods of happiness, excitement, and pride when your student leaves for college. You may also experience a sense of sadness and pain and be concerned about your student’s future and well-being.
  • You may be concerned about how your student will deal with alcohol, drugs, and sexual relationships.
  • You can expect to feel a variety of emotions.

How You Can Support Yourself

  • Recognize that it is normal to have mixed feelings when your student leaves home. Feelings of pain and loss often accompany separation from loved ones. You may also feel a sense of relief at getting your student off to college, relishing some time alone.
  • Talk to others who have already been through the adjustment period or those just going through it like yourself. They can often provide a sense of supportive understanding.
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise during this period of adjustment; develop and maintain your own support systems.
  • Do your best to maintain your own sense of well-being. This may include eating and sleeping well, exercising, and setting new and creative goals for yourself.

What your Student May Experience

  • For your student, college will most likely be a period of intellectual stimulation and growth, career exploration and development, increased independence, self-exploration and discovery, and social involvement.
  • During this time, your student may forge new identities or seek to clarify his/her values and beliefs. This may require an examination of family, friends, and self. S/he may challenge the values you hold dear.
  • The changes a student may experience can occur quickly, as he/she begins to develop new peer relationships, gain competence in new areas, and learn to manage her/his independence.
  • It is important to recognize that every student will experience her/his own unique set of challenges and adjustments. Likewise, you might have different expectations for and reactions to your student’s college experience.

How You Can Support Your Student

  • Maintain a supportive relationship with your student as this can be critical to her/his success in college, particularly her/his first year.  Convey your support.
  • Maintain regular contact yet also allow space for him/her to approach you and set the agenda for some of your conversations. Let your student know that you respect and support her/his right to make independent decisions.
  • Know that your student may accept your advice one day and reject it the next – this is normal!
  • Refrain, if possible, from burdening your student with problems s/he has no control over and can do nothing about.
  • If possible, create as little change as possible in his/her home environment.
  • Various university personnel can be helpful to you and your student in the future. These individuals can include academic advisors, deans, financial aid officers, and residence hall staff.

Reprinted with permission from Georgetown University, Counseling and Psychiatric Services, for formatting and content ideas.