Getting Your Teen Ready for College

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Is your son or daughter heading off to college in the fall? As the mom of children 10 and under, I can only imagine what a blubbering mess I’ll be the day I leave them at the college dorm. As a former college academic adviser, I’ve seen the view from the students’ side, as well as that of the institution. Here’s my advice on helping your teen to get ready for college, and helping you to get through it emotionally as well.

Be Supportive

Your kid is probably going through a variety of emotions at the thought of going away to college. On one hand, he might be excited at the prospect of gaining independence and meeting new people. On the other hand, there’s the thought of gaining independence and meeting new people! It can be overwhelming. Be there to support them through things like college orientation, shopping for school and dorm supplies,  and moving in. And be sure to let them know you’re there for them throughout the process. Remind them that you’ve got their back and you’ll always be around to listen. Just being able to call home and hear a familiar voice can be a comfort in the early days.

Don’t Smother Them

On the other hand, you don’t want to hover over them. Have you heard the term “helicopter parents”? While it has a negative ring to it, there is some validity to the fact that there are many parents who are simply not willing to let their teenagers begin to branch out on their own and make independent choices. There are lots of ways to begin the process of letting go. You’ve probably taken steps toward teaching your kids independent thinking skills already.

Sit down and have a conversation with your teen. Ask him or her what you can do to help them in moving toward independence. For example, ask what you can do to be involved in their life while not being too overbearing. Believe me, they’ll let you know. Just don’t take their words too personally. Together, you can reach some common understanding that will help you both through the college transition.

Visit sites like College Tips for Parents and University Parent Connection for lessons others have learned and for support from other parents. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment with specific questions. I’m happy to provide you with more information. And don’t worry; you’ll do fine!


Yes, it seems that our teenagers finally get comfortable with high school, and then it’s time to “start all over again.” It seems that youth is filled with transitions which seem like starting all over again, and it’s stressful. But then you get into the long expanse of middle-age-hood and sometimes the stress seems to come from the very *absence* of change (or, at least the absence of such clear positive waypoints). Life sometimes seems like a railroad ride, where we pass the stations so quickly at the outset. Then the stations get further apart, but the train goes faster and faster!

How best to enjoy the successes of our children, and ride along with them in new ways … and not get in the way.

Carl Hindy, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Nashua NH

Mary Davis says:

Very good points, indeed, Carl! There are many transitions in life, and we don’t always have the tools to best deal with them. I think it’s our job as parents to help provide our children with the resources and tools to assist them in dealing with change and to help them learn to use the resources on their own. Thank you so much for your comment.

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