leaving for college

5 Survival Tips for Transitioning Your Kids to College

5 Survival Tips for Transitioning Your Kids to College

It’s that time of year again – the Back to School lists are published, supply shopping has begun and for many parents, a big step is looming – when your child is ready to leave the nest and head to college for the first time. For military parents, this can be a complete flip of how most of your life as a parent has gone. If you have been in the active duty, you have been the one to pack your bags and head off for months at a time. While you might be accustomed to not seeing your child every day, are you ready for that child to have all of the adventures away from you? Are you concerned with how you will handle it when the tables are turned? You aren’t alone! Read on for 5 easy tips that just might ease your child’s college transition!

Why is A Successful Transition Important? 

Let’s be honest – this is an exciting transition for them, but a terrifying one for you! As excited as you might be for your child to make this next step, it is new. It is likely the biggest adjustment you have faced as a parent since the day you brought your precious bundle home. You have already done all of the “big” things – like paying the deposit to secure their spot and starting tuition payments, but there are many little things that go into this transition as well. The successfulness of this time period sets the stage for the next four years! Approximately 25% of college enrolled freshmen withdraw before graduation. That number increases when the college attendee is the first in their family to go to college. Making the transition from live-at-home kid to independent-yet-still-attached college student smooth may help your child see their degree through to completion. 


#1: Set up a joint account that both you and your child have access to regularly

Keep the lines of financial dependence open…for now


Kids are expensive. From day 1, your precious angel has been costing you more money their you ever imagined. The needs have changed, however, and the cash flow is no longer going towards diapers and wipes. You shouldn’t be contributing cash towards a night out with friends or a new tattoo – however stressing over expenses that your child has never considered prior to now might encourage an early arrival home. For example, a simple sinus infection might be easily addressed at the school’s health center. If an antibiotic is needed, the stress of having to pay for needed medicine might stress your child more than ever. Parents need to remember that some of these things, which are completely commonplace in the adult world, are new and perhaps intimidating to the average college freshman. 


Opening a joint account not only gives you the capability to help your child when needed, it allows you a window into their day-to-day spending habits. With freedom comes responsibility and the combination can prove destructive without a guiding hand!


#2: Go through a list of some basic life skills that will come in handy

Adulting means taking care of your space, too!


Laundry. Grocery shopping. Vacuuming. Dusting. There are so many things you do on a regular basis to keep your house in order, and your child has likely taken them all for granted. Will they have access to a full kitchen at school? Or just a mini fridge and microwave? Do they know that even the minifridge needs to be cleaned out regularly? Have they explored the value of a vacuuming? Take the time to put together a list of your day-to-day chores and then look to see what your child has attempted before and what would be brand new. 


Odds are good that your child has had chores prior to now and that he or she knows how to take care of some basics around the dorm room. If you want to avoid an entirely pink wardrobe, it is worth the extra few minutes to make sure they know that red sweaters can’t be washed with the white t-shirts and socks!


#3: Make their room a home

Remind your child that home is their favorite place.


Does your child have a favorite blanket that she uses whenever she sits on the couch? A mug that he drinks soup out of whenever he is feeling under the weather? If you can’t part with the original, try to find a similar replicate to send with your child for when he or she needs the “comforts of home.” If you have traveled for active duty, there might be items of significance that your child has held onto over the years. Make sure those things are there and providing the same comfort they did when you waved goodbye to your 6-year-old. Most college dorms don’t allow things like candles – but if you have particular scents around your home, look for flameless alternatives that will produce the same familiar and comforting scent. 


This is likely their first home away from home, at least for an extended period of time. For military kids whose parents deploy, the sense of comfort might not always be with the parent, but with items that remind the child of their parents.


#4: Insurance provides peace of mind

You just never know what might go wrong…


Health insurance – keep your child on your health insurance plan as long as possible. Odds are good that your plan, whether it is TRICARE or something else, is better than anything they might have access to on their own. Health insurance is the big one that usually comes to mind – but is your child taking a car on campus? Is that campus in another state? You might want to check with your car insurance provider as well. Additionally – having your child out of the house for months at a time might actually save you some money! Other insurances to think about are things like phone and laptop insurance. Crazy things can happen in a college dorm room, and a $150 to replace a phone or laptop is far more affordable than a new device! 


#5: Remember what made you happy

It will likely make your child happy too!


Did you love getting care packages when you were deployed? Cards with little love notes from your child? Cookies baked with love? Necessities that were abundant at home but scarce overseas? Your child might find him or herself in the same boat! Care packages make even the worst day a little brighter. Remember: on a college  campus, nothing is sacred. If you are sending cookies, school supplies or candy – make sure you send enough to share! 


The little touches of home remind your child that you care and can help combat homesickness. 


And Finally…


College is a big deal. It is just as big of a change to you, your spouse, your household and your child as the day you brought that baby home from the hospital! There will be days when you want to drop kick your soon-to-be college freshman all the way to that dorm room – and there will be days when you want to just hold him or her and never let go. All of those emotions are normal, expected and necessary! Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart – and sometimes, neither is childhood!