How should parents help their children as they transition from high school to college?

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How should parents help their children as they transition from high school to college?
How should parents help their children as they transition from high school to college?
April Rubin.

Congratulations on your child’s high school graduation! While this accomplishment is primarily a result of their hard work, parents and family members do their part in both big and small ways. Providing a support system, helping motivate their students, preparing food for them, providing rides to school and giving them hugs when they need it are all ways in which parents help their children navigate the difficult high school hallways.

If college is the next step, parents may not be entirely sure how to take on the summer before starting as well as the first few months of this new situation. As someone who just completed her first year of college, I share some advice on how to help your ever-growing babies prepare for and start college.

I personally am a huge planner. I had lists of things I needed to purchase and have ready for my dorm room, so when it came time for shopping, we knew what to look for. However, I still needed guidance for things that I never needed to purchase before –– like a mattress topper and a mini fridge. If your child is a planner, then help them out with the details of their purchases. If he or she is not, then guide them and get them motivated to start figuring out particulars. If your child is staying home for college, ensure that the space they have at home is one that reflects their maturity and growth. Feeling comfortable in their space will promote their success.

In terms of academics, I have seen in myself and my friends that people who major in what they want to study are much happier about the courses they are taking and the route of their college experience. In contrast, those who feel pressure to be in a certain field because of parental or societal influences lack drive and are ultimately less fulfilled. Parents, be supportive of what your child wants to study –– all the way from orientation to graduation –– and if they are seeking advice or guidance, provide it with an open mind and heart. Actions like this will pay off in the long run.

Everyone’s situation is different in terms of adapting. I am the oldest of three siblings, so a year ago was the first time my parents had a child go to college. I spoke to my family on the phone at least once a day, probably more often. FaceTime became one of my favorite apps. However, I know people who spoke to their parents less than I did, and they were content with that.

If your child starts to feel homesick, that’s entirely normal. I would bet that almost all of my friends were homesick at different points throughout the fall and spring semesters. How should this be handled? If a visit is possible, it won’t hurt. I’m not saying to take a trip home every weekend, but if a few visits can be accommodated without excessive plane tickets, then I advocate for it. Because my school is a six-hour drive from Miami, I was able to take a bus home on some weekends, or my family drove to visit me.

When I found extracurricular activities that I enjoyed and friends who I felt entirely comfortable around, I felt at home at college. Your child’s group of friends should be people who support his or her triumphs selflessly and are there for them during tough times. Finding these people comes faster for some students than others, so try to encourage your children to get involved and branch out as soon as they feel ready to.

From the moment that a high school senior switches the side of their graduation cap tassel, they are a college student. With some preparation and relaxation, the summer leading up to their freshman year can put them in the right mindset to start strong, and while the transition may be confusing and difficult, it is a new chapter in their book of life that should be celebrated and enjoyed.


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