Students carrying moving boxes, moving into their dorms.

Transitioning to College

As your student embarks upon their exciting new path of becoming a college student, this can be a time of mixed emotions for parents and extended family. While you celebrate that they have earned this opportunity, you may also be feeling some worry about what to expect.


What Can I Do To Provide Support For My Student

Every student will transition differently. This is important to remember when hearing stories from other parents about their student’s matriculation process (the process of entering a university). The problem occurs if everyone is expecting the transition to be perfect and is then caught off guard by occasional bouts of homesickness or uncertainty. It is not uncommon to hear a student saying that they are thrilled with their decision in one minute and then saying that they want to move back home in the next. This is part of change. With change comes the excitement of new opportunities as well as grief over missing the way life was. 

Shift To The Role Of Consultant

When students enter college they often want to prove their independence to themselves and to you. Don’t be surprised if your student, who used to come to you for advice, stops asking for it for a while. When a student is working to prove their independence, any advice (no matter how brilliant) can be met with resistance. Many parents who negotiate this change in the relationship with their student effectively, do so by shifting from the role of being the boss to being the trusted consultant. While a boss often tells you what to do, a consultant is there to give an opinion when it is asked for. A consultant also doesn’t get angry when you don’t follow their advice. 

Listen

The most important thing you can do for your student if they're going through a difficult time is to listen. Often, just feeling heard is all the student needs in order to then refocus on their enthusiasm about the new possibilities.

Recognize That Students May Make Some Mistakes

Just as kids learn to walk or ride a bike by falling down, they may also take a few metaphorical falls in their progression to adulthood. If they spend all of their money in the first few weeks, then this can be an opportunity for them to grow and learn how to better manage their money by making financial sacrifices. If you can resist the “I told you so,” your student can learn to view you as that supportive person who is waiting on the sidelines to listen to them while they think through their mistakes.

Parents Need Support Too

This is also a time of transition for you as a parent or extended family member; parents need support too. It is not uncommon to feel grief over both your student moving out of the home as well as some relief. Each person will experience this transition differently and it is important that you do not compare yourself to others who are also going through this process. It is also important for you to think about your own personal goals and plans now that you may have a little more time for you. This can be a difficult step for you if you are used to feeling guilty about spending time on your own goals and projects instead of focusing on your student. It can sometimes be helpful to talk with other family members who are experiencing feelings similar to you as this can provide you with validation and support. 


Counseling and Psychological Services Is Here For You

If you need to consult with a mental health counselor about concerns you are having regarding your student, you may call for a consultation with Counseling and Psychological Services. If we have seen your student for counseling, we will not be able to release that information unless they have chosen to sign a Release of Information form authorizing us to do so. We can, however, listen to your concerns as a parent and consult with you about those concerns.

When it seems that talking to a counselor could be helpful for your student, remind your student that we are here for them. They can call us at 850.474.2420 or walk into Building 960, Suite 200A to schedule an appointment. 

Additional Resources

Learn more about how to start the conversations about your college student's mental health through this resource from the Jed Foundation: Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health‌.