Is There a Stress-Free Transition from Home to College?

Whether you’re the type of parent who is preparing the sports equipment, sewing equipment, scrapbooking, crafts, big screen, or model collection that will take over your child’s room when they’re gone, or you’re the parent who will keep the room spotless until they come home for winter break, the transition from a student at home to a student on campus is rough.

You might love spending time with your child, or they might roll their eyes every time you say something to them, but either way there is love somewhere in each and every action. That love can bubble up and overflow into our actions in strange ways. This is what makes that transition from packing to moving to unpacking a big mess.

Now ask yourself which kind of parent are you?

Now, think about it again. We all have these images of ourselves, but will we really react/act the way we think when it comes down to the wire? Probably not.

The first step in preparing yourself for the transition is to recognize that. Understand that even if you feel like you’re making perfect sense you might not seem that way to someone else (especially a 17 or 18 year old). You might think you’re doing the perfect thing, being helpful or giving them their space, but it might not come off the same way. If you are aware of this then it’ll be a lot easier to understand how to work with your student and the rest of your family throughout this transition.

The second step is to talk to your child, well, young adult about all of this. What do they want out of you? Even if they say one thing they might mean another, but it’s still worth the conversation. You’ve spent quite a while with them and should be able to read some of the signs they give and see what they want. It really depends on the person too. Some students may want you to hold their hand throughout the process, pack things up with them, and help them unpack everything in a certain way once they arrive in their new dorm. Other students might want you to leave them alone, drop them off, and not talk to you again until their settled. Most of the time a student wants some kind of mix between the two. They’re ready to be independent and they’re excited to start this new part of their life where they get to live on their own and make their own decisions. While that may sound terrifying, it’s a big step toward adulthood (which we all want). But at the same time there’s a huge part of each and every one of us that is scared to not have those people that we know will always love us there. It’s scary to go somewhere that you don’t know what it will be like. Even if they don’t want your help, they need some kind of support to go through this transition.

The final step is to realize that no, there probably is no way to go through this transition completely stress-free. That is just the nature of things. It may not come out in a big, full-blown explosion of screaming, crying, and hurt feelings between you and your new college student, which is definitely our hope, but something will be there. You may be the only one who feels stressed or your child might be the one feeling it.

The goal is to do what you can to rationally understand what they’re going through, what you’re going through, and to try to juggle and understand it all. It’s a tough task, but it’s one of your last big ones in this young adult’s life. From here on out they’ll have you there for them, but it’ll be their journey that they can create. Do your best to be there for them, however you can, and I’m sure it’ll turn out great.

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Mollie Diedrich

Mollie Diedrich

Mollie Diedrich is a senior creative writing major at DePaul University. She is minoring in journalism and aspires to be the next big food writer. Her love of writing propels all she does from her food blog to online magazine articles. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably baking. She has a ferocious sweet tooth and adores cupcakes of all shapes and sizes.